I’ve heard that the James Webb telescope will be able to analyze planets for life, even intelligent life, based on a snapshot of their atmospheric conditions (in the case of intelligent life we would look for signs of pollution).
That’s nice to know, but if we can only check one planet per week, our abilities may still be limited. On the other hand, if we could check hundreds of planets a day, then the possibilities are endless.
Does anybody know how many planets the James Webb will be able to check on a daily basis? Maybe if we don’t have that data, other similar data from space telescopes could lend some insight into potential.
Likely not even one.
You have to understand that the JWST is not deisgned like the recent Kepler telescope. Kepler was designed to sit and stare at 145,000 stars for 2 years. That’s it. It didn’t move about looking at different places in the sky, it simply sat there, not moving, and noted any brief dips in brightness of all the stars in its field of view.
The JWST on the other hand has 4 instruments, some of which can be used to note atmospheric makeups. They also have the capability to block out the host star’s overwhelming light making detection of a non-stellar object easier. The problem is the JWST will have so many other competing demands (primordial galaxy formation, molecular cloud composition, examination of Titan’s atmosphere etc.) that they wont be able to spend very much time just look at a single exo-solar system.
Transients are incredibly quick - to catch one in the act and note the IR spectrum before, during and after, likely wont’ be allowed very often.
Since I didn’t have anything other than opinion in my reply I went digging.
Here is the agenda of the JWST Transit Planning Meeting whcih took place between March 11-13, 2014 at the California Institute of Technology.
As you move through the agenda specific topics can be opened up into powerpoint decks linked to the subjects in question.