Virtually Experience the Science of Webb at the ESA Booth

Webb VR

With a virtual reality headset and hand controllers, you can join the James Webb Space Telescope in orbit to explore the observatory and the science that it will enable after its planned 2021 launch. Visit the European Space Agency (ESA) booth in the Exhibition to experience it for yourself! (STScI)

Imagine you’re flying through space — and no spacesuit or oxygen is required. That’s exactly what you’ll experience when donning a virtual reality (VR) headset and diving into the VR experience that focuses on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in its soon-to-be-home, about 1.5 million kilometres from Earth at Lagrange Point 2 (L2). The simulation is set against an accurate backdrop of our Solar System and allows users to view Webb alongside the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) in a 360° experience.

The Webb VR experience, developed by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in partnership with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (JWST’s prime contractor), has two primary objectives: to showcase Webb’s scientific capabilities and to allow users to better visualise what the 6.5-meter infrared-optimised space telescope will be able to observe.

In addition to exploring the observatory in space at L2, you can soar high above a protoplanetary disc in the heart of the Orion Nebula and dive into the swirling dust. By adjusting the interactive VR settings, you can experiment with planet formation and photodissociation in this complex environment. Or perhaps you’d rather visit another galaxy to manipulate the gravity of a black hole and witness the different stages of the stellar life cycle? With VR you will not only learn, but also experience the science.

Virtual reality technology is just one of the many tools we are using at STScI to visualise scientific concepts that are difficult to describe. Our work includes a full suite of products for science visualisation that accommodate a range of audiences. Our VR programming and high-definition planetarium shows offer immersive experiences for select users, while our animated videos and infographics help explain science and are easily shared over social media. Each of our products is designed by a collaborative team of scientists and communication professionals to ensure that the right message is delivered in an effective manner.

While our products are designed for the general public, anything created at STScI is in the public domain and freely available for use in your own scientific and public presentations. Please stop by the European Space Agency (ESA) booth, number 0-14 on the ground floor of the Exhibition, to experience the wonder of Webb in VR and to learn about the many scientific outreach products we develop.

ALEX LOCKWOOD is the Webb Science Communications Lead and Education and Outreach Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Her research has included near-infrared (IR) studies of discs, exoplanets and Kuiper Belt Objects, but now she supports IR astronomy by communicating science on behalf of the Webb mission.