Scientists to share science behind James Webb Space Telescope this half term

Space scientists from the University of Leicester will demonstrate the cutting-edge science behind the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) at the National Space Centre this October half term.

Leicester astronomers and planetary scientists will use data from JWST – the most advanced observatory ever built – to answer some of the fundamental questions about our Universe following its launch in December.

Engineers from the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre also provided the mechanical engineering lead for the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which will observe targets from within our Solar System, Milky Way galaxy, and beyond.

The National Space Centre will host daily ‘Galaxies Assemble’ activities from Monday 18 to Sunday 31 October, to include interactive talks and demonstrations from Leicester scientists, plus:

  • Space Telescopes – Find out more about the amazing mirrors that help Webb to look farther back in time than any other telescope. Through a live demonstration children will understand the history of how space telescopes work and some of the instruments that are part of these incredible spacecraft. 
  • Make a Webb Mirror – For JWST to fit into a rocket, it must fold up. Whether it is the primary mirror or the sunshield, many parts of Webb are designed to deploy or unfold once in space. Create your own Webb primary mirror and discover the elegant engineering and artistic inspiration behind the telescope. 
  • Spectacular Spectrum – The Webb telescope will be using near infrared light to look at galaxies and peer back in the history of the Universe. Explore different types of light from ultraviolet (UV), infrared (IR) and visible light.

Dr Sarah Casewell is an STFC Ernest Rutherford Research Fellow based at the University of Leicester, and will use JWST to data to expand our understanding of brown and white dwarfs.

She said: “I remember the early Hubble images being so inspiring for so many proper and am really excited for the James Webb Space Telescope to introduce so many more people to the beauty of space. As JWST will observe in the infrared, we will understand more about cool objects such as exoplanets and brown dwarfs as well as the earliest galaxies.

“It’s also really exciting for us at Leicester to know that something we have been a part of for so many years is about to launch and will allow us to understand so much more about the Universe.”

Further Leicester experts supporting Galaxies Assemble events include Piyal Samara-Ratna, part of the Leicester team which made major contributions to the design, build and test of MIRI, plus PRIMER programme co-investigators Dr John Pye and Dr Tuomo Tikkanen, and planetary scientists Dr Henrik Melin and Dr Leigh Fletcher.

Tickets also include entry to the National Space Centre’s award-winning planetarium show, but must be booked in advance (including Annual Pass holders).

For more information and to book your place, visit