sci21001 — Announcement

Making History: The First Cycle of Exciting JWST Science is Published

20 May 2021

Antonella Nota

The James Webb Space Telescope has completed a very important milestone: the Cycle 1 scientific programme has been assembled and published.  Scientific observations are expected to start approximately seven months after launch and include three different categories of observations: Guaranteed Time Observations (GTOs) (3800 hours), Early Release Science (ERS) (500 hours) and the General Observer (GO) programme, which has been released now and will use 5981 hours of observing time.

Cycle 1 has been a competitive cycle: 1172 proposals had been received before the deadline of 24 November 2020, requesting 25 278 hours. Of these proposals, 374 had a Principal Investigator (PI) from an ESA member state (19 out of 22). This number is especially significant because JWST proposals, being single stream, were more complicated than what the Hubble community was used to and required considerable more effort to prepare. And right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic!

At ESA/JWST, we had focused on informing and educating the European community, through Master Class Workshops in almost every country, and a concerted effort to increase JWST  awareness and knowledge throughout Europe, supported also by the widely distributed network of the MIRI European Consortium (kudos to Gillian Wright, MIRI co-PI!).

The proposal review was held, virtually, in February–March 2021. 18 panels had been assembled to review the collection of proposals received. Small and Medium proposals were assessed by the panels, while Large and Treasury programs were evaluated and ranked by the Executive Committee. ESA was well represented in the peer review process, with 53 European astronomers involved (~ 27% of the total) as panel members, panel Chairs and At-Large members. Our gratitude to all for the hard work put into this. Everybody felt they were part of a historical moment as Monica Tosi, Co-chair of the Executive Committee, solemnly stated at the end of the meeting, “TACs are always a key element in the life of any telescope, but in this case, we are part of a historical event, and I felt truly honoured to have witnessed it. We have been waiting for this meeting for years and finally we are here in conditions that are truly exceptionally difficult, given the pandemic and the harsh winter storms. I feel proud of being part of a community that reacts at its best to the most difficult challenges.

After the review, we found out that European proposers had done extremely well, with 33% of the successful proposals (89 proposals accepted out of 266) and 30% of the hours allocated (1786 hours). This is an absolutely remarkable result, given that the overall acceptance rate was ~ 1:4 for proposals and hours for Small and Medium proposals, and ~ 1:5 for Large proposals.

Figure 1 shows the distribution of successful proposals in Europe. We could not be more proud of this outcome! Special congratulations go to ESO, MPIA, the Geneva Observatory, the University of Stockholm, the University of Leiden, University College London, and the University of Cambridge for winning more than three proposals each in this round, and to all the successful PIs across Europe who sent a loud message that their scientific commitment to this extraordinary observatory is huge.

A final word on how the time was allocated by instrument. NIRSPEC obtained the lion’s share of the time (40.8%), closely followed by MIRI (28.1%), NIRCAM (24.4%), and NIRISS (6.7%). Approximately 30% of JWST Cycle 1 GO time will be used for imaging, and 70% for spectroscopy, confirming once and for all that JWST will truly be a spectroscopic observatory. For detailed numbers and statistics, visit this page.

Now, we all deserve a reward. And the reward we are all looking for is to have JWST safely and efficiently operating less than a year from now,” concluded Monica Tosi at the end of the meeting in March.

We could not agree more. Godspeed!


Antonella Nota
ESA/HST & ESA/JWST Project Scientist
STScI Baltimore, USA

About the Announcement



James Webb Space Telescope Cycle 1 Results for Europe
James Webb Space Telescope Cycle 1 Results for Europe

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