JWST @ STScI Update

Klaus Pontoppidan (pontoppi[at]stsci.edu)

Communication and JWSTObserver

“JWSTObserver” refers to the system of communication channels for the James Webb Space Telescope between STScI and the astronomical community. It includes the jwst.stsci.edu website, news items and events, and a social media presence on Twitter and FaceBook. JWSTObserver news items are also distributed every two months in a “news roundup” email. The latest news about JWST “for scientists” can always be found on the JWSTObserver channels, so be sure to check the website, follow us on social media and/or sign up for the JWSTObserver newsletter. STScI also cultivates the public outreach website for JWST science, www.webbtelescope.org, which was recently redesigned. This site will be continuously updated with new content and resources explaining infrared astronomy and the science of JWST to a general audience. You may also find it useful as a resource for teaching, or for your own public outreach activities.

JWST Science and Operations Center

On June 27, NASA announced a revised schedule for JWST, with a new launch date on March 30, 2021. This delay paused the Cycle 1 General Observations (GO1) proposal process. Pending further direction from NASA, the Institute anticipates releasing the GO1 Call for Proposals in late 2019 or early 2020, at least 14 months prior to the launch date, and the GO1 deadline will be no earlier than February 2020. More detail on the science timeline can be found in a companion article in this edition by Neill Reid.

STScI is using the delay from now until the end of 2019 to complete testing of the ground system, improve the observing efficiency, and enhance the proposal planning subsystem, in particular by improving our observer documentation, such as JDox.

Lessons learned after the GO1 delay

Following the delay of the GO1 proposal deadline, user support at STScI and JWSTObserver conducted a survey of the JWST users asking about their experience with the proposal process. The survey ran from April 16 to May 1, 2018, and resulted in 318 responses and more than 50 pages of detailed feedback comments. The basic results of the survey can be found on the JWST Observer website. One of the key results from the survey is that almost 40% the respondents reported that they had not yet used the Astronomer’s Proposal Tool (APT) to start technical preparation of the proposed observations. Since JWST proposals should have complete technical specifications at the time of submission, some proposers might well have encountered significant issues in finalizing their proposals by the original deadline.

The survey results were used to inform a “lessons learned” exercise that resulted in a number of recommendations for improvements of the proposal planning system. In particular, it is clear that JWST is a complex observatory, and that some users struggled learning how to use it. Recommendations therefore included improving the ETC by adding functionality that helps new users to carry out simple sensitivity calculations, improvements to the NIRSpec MSA planning tool, and consolidation of the visibility tools. STScI is also working on improving documentation and adding more quick-start video tutorials. Finally, a new suite of training events is being planned for 2019/2020.

JWST at the summer AAS and the IAU General Assembly in Vienna

JWST had a significant presence at the summer AAS in Denver and the recent General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Vienna, Austria. At the summer AAS, a meeting on “Preparing for JWST Science with the Early Release Science Programs” presented the science planned for early release, with participation of 8 out of 13 ERS teams. The presentations from this meeting are available online. At the IAU General Assembly a 3-day Focus Meeting on “Launch, Commissioning and Cycle 1 Science” highlighted ERS, GTO and GO science, and keynote presentations by IAU President Ewine van Dishoeck, NIRISS PI René Doyon, and the ESA Director of Science Günther Hasinger. The IAU focus meeting presentations are also available online.

IAU General Assembly Virtual Reality demonstration
JWST communications lead at STScI, Alex Lockwood, demonstrates the JWST Virtual Reality experience to the ESA Director of Science, Günther Hasinger, at the IAU General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.