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Python's role in unlocking the secrets of the Universe with the James Webb Space Telescope

Dr. Patrick Kavanagh

The James Webb Space Telescope is a groundbreaking infrared observatory resulting from an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. It was successfully launched on Christmas Day 2021 from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and is currently orbiting the L2 point 1.5 million km from Earth.

Webb was designed to address some of the biggest questions in astronomy and astrophysics, including identifying the first stars in the Universe, observing the first galaxies, revealing the initial stages of star and planet formation, and probing the composition of exoplanet atmospheres.

But how do we go from the raw data collected by Webb to science-ready data products delivered to astronomers and astrophysicists around the world? How do we embed our understanding of the telescope and its instruments into this process? How did we prepare and test this?

From instrument simulators to the ambitious Webb Calibration Pipeline, the software suites that support these tasks are written in Python. In this talk I will give an overview of Webb, the crucial role of Python in Webb's development and data processing, and I will show and discuss the first publicly released images from this revolutionary telescope.

About the keynoter

Dr. Patrick Kavanagh is an astrophysicist and software developer based at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). He is an expert in high-energy studies of supernova remnants, superbubbles and the hot interstellar medium.

Since moving to DIAS he has worked on the development of calibration and software tools for the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on Webb. MIRI is an international project comprising a consortium of European partner institutes, including DIAS, the European Space Agency, and partners in the US.

He works on many aspects of MIRI including the calibration of the MIRI Medium Resolution Spectrometer, development of the MIRI simulator, MIRI commissioning activities and analysis tools, and will support MIRI commissioning at the Webb Mission Operations Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.