The Ultimate Wayback Machine

Looking through a telescope is like being inside a time machine — you are seeing light from the past. And some space telescopes allow astronomers to see light that is billions of years old and existed before there was an Earth or sun. Astrophysicist Michelle Thaller introduces us to scientists who started two of the most powerful telescopes, the Hubble, which launched 25 years ago, and the James Webb Space Telescope, being built right now.

Inside the Episode:

Dr. Michelle Thaller speaks with Nancy Grace Roman, the first Head of Astrophysics at NASA, about how she got interested in the stars and her time working at NASA on the Hubble Space Telescope.

Then, Dr. Thaller meets with Jane Rigby, Deputy Operations Project Scientist for The James Webb Space Telescope, the next generation of space telescope, launching in 2018. Its mirror will be seven times the size of Hubble’s and will help astronomers see farther than they’ve ever seen before. Here are some photos of their visit:


Drs. Michelle Thaller (L) and Jane Rigby look into the clean room where NASA is building the James Webb Space Telescope. This six-story room is the largest clean room in the world.


Drs. Jane Rigby (L) and Michelle Thaller gaze up at a giant piece of machinery at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center that will be used to test the James Webb Space Telescope before its launch in 2018.

This episode was produced by Lauren Ober. Mix and sound design by Whitney Jones. Photos by Lauren Ober.

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