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ASU looks to stars and galaxies to advance knowledge of life beyond Earth

Posted at 5:32 PM, Sep 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 20:32:56-04

TEMPE, AZ — Arizona State University was recently named the #1 school for innovation by the U.S. News and World Report for the eighth consecutive year.

That spirit of innovation is, in part, related to ASU’s partnerships with space programs like NASA.

For decades, Dr. Rogier Windhorst, a Regents’ and Foundation Professor at ASU, has worked at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, while also lending his knowledge and skills to NASA on the Hubble Telescope in the 1990s, and more recently, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

“This is just like another Golden Age in science,” Dr. Windhorst told ABC15. “Like Hubble started 32 years ago, we’re doing it again. And that’s awesome.”

Dr. Windhorst, on top of being an ASU professor, works as an Interdisciplinary Scientist for the JWST.

His job, as he put it, was to make sure the JWST was able to “do the science that was advertised” when the project was first conceived in the 1980s, and finally launched on Christmas Day in 2021.

“[It’s] even better than we thought,” Dr. Windhorst said. “It’s doing everything it’s supposed to do.”

Since JWST began transmitting data back to Earth, with the first images coming in July, Dr. Windhorst and his team have been observing the life cycles of stars in “the galactic backyard,” and witnessing the “cosmic circle of life,” Dr. Windhorst said. And that’s his goal as he and other scientists around the world continue to study life beyond our planet.

“We get to know where we come from,” Dr. Windhorst said. “That's what we study at ASU, where these chemical elements come from and how they make it into planets. And then you know, eventually the ingredients for life.”