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Webb Goes Full Spectrum

A couple of weeks ago, I got involved in a top secret recording project – two of our scientists were putting together an audition video for TED2012: Full Spectrum, and they needed someone to record the audio for their short clip. It was a whirlwind recording session, but when I saw the finished product, I was really excited.

So it wasn’t a surprise when TED announced their finalists this week… and our very own astrophysicists Dr. Jane Rigby and Dr. Amber Straughn had made the cut! They’ve been invited to give their talk on May 24th in New York City. Of course, we asked if we could get the scoop for Blueshift. So here’s the premiere of their audition video, followed by a Q&A about it!

Blueshift: Tell us a bit about your talk – what did you propose?

Amber: Our audition video was short and sweet: a montage of beautiful Hubble images, and the sad acknowledgement that Hubble won’t last forever. But, something new is on the horizon, and we want to tell the TED audience about the successor to Hubble, which is of course the James Webb Space Telescope!

Blueshift: Why did you propose this to TED?

Jane: The point of TED is to share great ideas. I think “Let’s put telescopes in space” is one of the greatest ideas humanity’s ever had. A space telescope sends data back to thousands of astronomers, who generate results that are appreciated by billions of people around the world. There’s something very noble about building robots, sending them up in space, and having them peer out to the edge of space for us. Amber and I want to share that story.

Amber: The TED audience is highly tuned in to the topics that we’ll address: how astronomy – and discovery in general – is a human story, how we are connected to the universe (perhaps more than most people realize – we are literally made of exploded stars), and of course the amazing new technology that goes into building the world’s biggest space telescope, and the frontier science questions this new machine will answer. The Hubble and Webb stories are human stories, and we want to get that across.

Blueshift: What was your reaction when you found out that you made the cut?

Jane: First, “Cool beans!” And then, a bit of, “Oh goodness, there’s so much to share about space telescopes and how amazing the Universe is – how do we cram it in?”

Amber: How do you cover the 21 year history of the world’s most beloved space telescope, and the plans for the world’s next huge telescope, in 5 minutes? We’re going to try!

Blueshift: How are you preparing for your NYC appearance?

Jane: As it happens, both Amber and I are giving short talks at the Goddard’s Open House this Saturday [Sara’s note: Explore@NASA Goddard, on May 14th, come visit if you’re in the DC area!], so that’ll be a test-drive of some of our NYC audition ideas.

We wish Amber and Jane the best of luck, of course… and we’ll follow up after their trip to NYC!

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