Krimizis: Athens, the world premiere of James Webb’s scientific conclusions


In our city there will be a popular presentation of the material that James Webb offered us by John Mather, Nobel laureate and head of the space telescope program, according to Stamatis Krimizis.

From today, Athens becomes the world capital of astronomy and while only a few 24 hours have passed since the day when the photos of the James Webb telescope were released, thanks to which we got to know the farthest corners of the universe. The 44th General Assembly of the International Committee for Space Research, or Cospar 2022, acquires a special interest not only for the elite of space research that will gather in Athens, but also for the general public.

As Stamatis Krimizis, president of the scientific organizing committee of the conference, stated to APE-MPE and P. Dimitrolopoulos, the first scientific presentation of James Webb’s research will take place in Athens.

But in Athens there will also be a popular presentation of the material that James Webb offered us by John Mather, Nobel laureate and head of the space telescope program.

Is it a happy coincidence Mr. Krimizis that the publication of the James Webb images coincides with the holding of the Cospar 2022 conference in Athens?

If I tell you a little about the background, you will understand that it may not be that much. The head of NASA’s science programs who was in charge of planning the launch is Thomas Zurbuchen. I know him well, I have been his mentor at NASA. I have every reason to believe that he took into account the dates of the conference. Of course, it was not certain that the two events would coincide. If any of the steps went wrong the time frame would be different. Let’s not forget that the initial estimate was that the first images would be released in August. But they were given on July 12. And so in Athens the scientific presentation of James Webb’s research will take place for the first time.

What does Stamatis Krimizis see in these photos?

What made a tremendous impression on me is that because this telescope has the ability to look at the spectrum of radiation and thus be able to capture the lines corresponding to various elements, we learned that elements such as oxygen, neon, hydrogen and nitrogen, for the first 500 million to 1 billion years since the big bang, the great explosion that created the universe. The second most important is that he did spectroscopy on one of the exoplanets and there he discovered water vapor in the atmosphere. This is hugely important because it shows that water is a key ingredient in many exoplanets. Imagine that until now we couldn’t even see the atmosphere. But now we can and do measure what’s in the atmosphere.

If someone asked 50 scientists at the conference what the limits of the universe are, would they all get the same answer?

The information we had so far from the Hubbor Space Telescope was that the universe extended to 13.8 billion light years. From James Webb we are now waiting for more information, he can give us some different timings. In science, you know, there are no opinions, there are proofs. Of course we have models and theories but theories are just that, theories, and if they are not confirmed they do not survive as theories. If we can expect anything in the coming years it is new discoveries that will precisely deconstruct many of the theories we have formulated today.

What is the prevailing theory about the limits of the universe?

This opens up a very large discussion. If you ask a theorist they will tell you that there was no time before the big bang. But these are not matters that concern us experimentalists.

You said there is water vapor on the exoplanet, which points to some kind of life. Nothing fires our imaginations more, and NASA is looking…

You know 30 years ago, when we were conceiving the vision for planetary exploration, our motto was follow the water. Many assumptions have been made, but nothing is valid until proven.

So which city will welcome the space research elite?

It is a city located in the center rather than the periphery of science. Moreover, Greeks from the diaspora participate in almost all the programs. I keep the rest for my greeting at the conference reception!

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