Texas A&M fomer students Ralph and Marsha Schilling (center), were honored by then-Dean of Science H. Joseph Newton (right) and Director of Development Michael Morelius ’98 (left) with a plaque recognizing their 2013 gift to establish the Marsha L. ’69 and Ralph F. Schilling ’68 Chair in Experimental Physics, jointly held by Texas A&M astronomer Casey Papovich and Texas A&M nuclear physicist John Hardy.
In addition to Papovich, the CEERS team includes Texas A&M astronomy graduate students Vincent Estrada-Carpenter ’19 and Taylor Hutchison ’18. The JWST will give them a number of technical advantages, including visibility of a broad range of infrared light that is blocked from ground-based telescopes by the Earth’s atmosphere. With no bright Earth atmosphere to drown out the faint objects, the astronomers will be able to see the same regions of the sky they did with Hubble but to both greater detail and distances, given the Webb’s higher resolution and vastly superior light-collecting capabilities.
“We have really pushed Hubble and other telescopes to their very limits, yet only scratched the surface of what galaxies in the very early universe were like,” Papovich said. “We have some expectations for what we should find with the JWST, but honestly, we’re looking into the unknown. The most amazing discoveries will be things that no one can predict.”
For Schilling, the former student and physics graduate who cut his technological teeth as a graduate student in the Texas A&M Cyclotron Institute and helped make it all possible through his professional innovation — and, in Papovich’s case, personal philanthropy — the full-circle effect is both powerful and palpable.
“During my career in aerospace, I participated in development of the system architecture and enabling technology for the JWST, so it is especially exciting and rewarding for my wife and me that Professor Papovich, who holds the faculty chair we sponsored, was selected for the initial observing program,” Schilling said.
This story by Shana K. Hutchins originally appeared on the College of Science website.