James Webb Space Telescope Community Education

Christine H. Chen, cchen@stsci.edu

The James Webb Space Telescope is NASA’s next flagship astrophysics mission. It is designed to revolutionize our understanding of the four Webb science themes: (1) first light and reionization, (2) assembly of galaxies, (3) birth of stars and protoplanetary systems, and (4) planets and the origins of life. Since Webb possesses an unprecedented combination of sensitivity and angular resolution at infrared wavelengths, it is also expected to enable discovery across many other areas of astrophysics. As the Science and Operations Center (SOC), the Institute is responsible for helping to educate the scientific community about observatory performance and operations, as well as calibration plans and assisting the community in designing and implementing scientific programs. Webb's success is dependent on the scientific community's ability to effectively plan and execute observations.

The Institute is offering a combination of live on-line webinars and in-person workshops during the period leading up to the GO Cycle 1 proposal deadline. Since not all astronomers are able to travel, all of the webinars and workshops will be broadcast live, recorded, and archived on the web. The Institute plans to use Cisco's Webex service to enable remote participation, allowing those remote viewers to ask questions and participate in discussions. Webex supports up to 500 participants on the internet (with audio and video support) and another 500 participants on the phone (with audio support only).


In January 2016, the Institute launched a webinar series to educate the community about all of the things that prospective Webb users need to know (e.g., Webb capabilities, observation planning, proposal opportunities and deadlines, software tools). The first set of webinars was tested with astronomers in southern California to gain experience serving content to a remote audience and gather input about what astronomers want to know about Webb. It included lectures from the Institute's Multi-Mission Project Scientist Jason Kalirai on "Preparing for JWST" and from the NIRCam, NIRISS, NIRSpec, and MIRI Instrument Definition Teams that designed and built the instruments. All of the lectures are archived and can be viewed online.

The Institute has set the webinar schedule for the fall, including talks on proposal opportunities (Director's Discretionary Early Release Science program), specific observing modes (Imaging, Spectroscopy, Coronagraphy) and calibration plans (Absolute Flux and Astrometric Calibration). The dates, times and connection information for the webinars can be found on the webpage listed above. To receive announcements and reminders for the webinar series, please send a blank e-mail to jwst_webinars-subscribe-request@maillist.stsci.edu. Subscribers will receive a return e-mail including a link; prospective subscribers must click on the link to confirm their subscription. A link to unsubscribe will be included in every announcement to the mailing list.


The Institute is organizing and participating in nearly monthly workshops and conferences to prepare the community for Webb's launch. Some events are focused on capabilities while others are focused on proposal and planning and/or data analysis tools (see Table 1). Please check the Webb website for the current schedule of events.

At the 229th AAS meeting in Grapevine, TX, the Institute will host a Webb Townhall meeting, offer a one-day data analysis tools workshop, demonstrate proposal and planning tools software, and offer Genius Bar hours. The Webb Townhall meeting will include presentations on the status of Webb, the ETC software, and the documentation system. In addition, the Institute will announce the formal release of the ETC software. The data analysis tools workshop will feature a mixture of presentations (e.g., describing ETC scripting in Python) and hands-on opportunities (e.g., to develop Python notebooks analyzing simulated data). At the Institute booth, staff members will demonstrate a preview of the APT software that will not be formally released until Spring 2017. Finally, members of the community will be able to sign up for 30-minute "Ask an Expert" appointments. A list of staff members, with a description their expertise and times that they are available, will be posted online prior to the meeting.

The Institute is organizing five Proposal and Planning Workshops across the country for the general astronomical community in support of the ERS and GO Cycle 1 Deadlines:

  • May 2017 at STScI (Baltimore, MD)
  • June 2017 at the 230th AAS Meeting (Austin, TX)
  • October 2017 at the 49th DPS Meeting (Provo, UT)
  • December 2017 at Caltech (Pasadena, CA)
  • January 2018 at the 231st AAS Meeting (National Harbor, MD)

Depending on length (one day versus three days), the workshops will include updates on mission status, timelines, and proposal opportunities; instruction and hands-on training using the ETC and APT; introduction to the other proposal and planning tools such as the Scheduling Tool and WebbPSF (the Webb point-spread-function simulation tool); and a brief overview on how to get started analyzing data once observations have been successfully obtained. In addition, the Institute will provide proposal and planning tools training at the upcoming "Science with the Hubble and JWST V" conference in Venice, Italy in March 2017 and the "Mastering the Science Instruments and the Observing Modes of JWST: Get Set" workshop (location TBD) in October 2017 to support the European community.

The Institute is also organizing a series of five topical science workshops:

  • JWST Nearby Galaxies Workshop (January 2017 in Pasadena, CA)
  • Planning Transiting Exoplanet Science with JWST II (July 2017 at STScI)
  • Galaxies Throughout Cosmic Time with JWST (August 2017 at STScI)
  • Observing Protoplanetary and Debris Disks with JWST (October 2017 at STScI)
  • Planning Solar System Observations with JWST (November 2017 at STScI)

In November 2015, the Institute hosted the first such workshop, "Enabling Transiting Exoplanet Science with JWST". The agenda included talks describing the current status of the field, challenges associated with transiting-exoplanet observations, expectations for how each of the Webb instruments will perform, new observations that Webb will enable, etc. The upcoming topical science workshops will be modeled on the 2015 Transiting Exoplanet Workshop. Some of the material in the topical science workshops is expected to be generic (high-level observatory overview, science policy, proposal opportunities, and high-level JDox, APT, and ETC overviews). Members of the general community are invited to attend these sessions.