Peoria planetarium director looks for big things to come into view
While her children were on the lookout for Santa, Renae Kerrigan got up early on Christmas Day to watch a rocket launch.
The planetarium director at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, Kerrigan wanted to see the James Webb Telescope blast into space.
“I woke up even earlier than usual so I could watch the launch because this telescope is the next great tool in astronomy,” she said.
“Just like the Hubble Telescope that revolutionized the way we understood the size of our universe and how many galaxies there are in the universe,” said Kerrigan.
“The Hubble gave us so many awesome pictures that were also scientifically valuable. The Hubble did all of that in 31 years. The James Webb Telescope is designed to be even more capable than the Hubble,” said Kerrigan, adding that if all goes well, the Webb telescope will start sending back images this summer.
Just getting the Webb telescope into space was a feat in itself, she said.
“People don’t realize how difficult it was just to get this telescope into space. The Webb had to fold up like origami to fit into the largest rocket. They have finished deployment of the sun shield which is a key element. It’s all going well so far,” said Kerrigan.
Kerrigan hopes to show images from the telescope when they become available using the advanced system at the Dome Planetarium. But she’s also looking forward to something else.
“The thing that’s exciting about a new tool like this is that you don’t know yet what you’ll find,” she said.