UNCOVER image from the James Webb Space Telescope

Public Lecture

Fresh Tracks into Galaxy Formation with Webb

Kate Whitaker

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Wed, Mar 6, 5:30–6:30pm

Flug Forum, Aspen Center for Physics


The first year of observations from the James Webb Space Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the Universe. Webb is a 6.5-meter space telescope sensitive to infrared light, detecting the light of ancient galaxies greater than 13 billion years. 

These first galaxies seem to be forming earlier and more rapidly than previously thought, defying predictions from our best theoretical models.  And the evidence continues to mount — we now find an abundance of oversized supermassive black holes, and, when the Universe was merely one billion years old, we find examples of star formation plummeting in ‘too early’, ‘too massive’ galaxies. 

Taken together, our entire knowledge of early galaxy formation is in a state of flux. In this talk, Whitaker will introduce you to the capabilities of NASA’s newest flagship mission and highlight a few of the most exciting and revolutionary results to date. Among these is the story of distinguishing the most distant galaxies from those enshrouded in thick veils of dust while teasing out the hidden monsters inside.

Kate Whitaker Headshot

About Kate Whitaker

Katherine E. Whitaker is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Associate Faculty at the Cosmic Dawn Center in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is a 2019 Alfred P. Sloan fellow and 2023 Kavli Fellow. Whitaker completed her undergraduate degree at UMass Amherst in 2005, after which point she earned her PhD in Astronomy at Yale University in 2012. Whitaker was a NASA Postdoctoral Program fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center from 2012-2015 and then brought a NASA Hubble Fellowship to UMass Amherst from 2015-2017. She was an Assistant Professor at UConn 2017-2019, later moving back to UMass in 2019.

Nick and Maggie DeWolf Public Lecture Series

The Nick and Maggie DeWolf Foundation has sponsored our winter public lecture series since their inception in 1985. The Nick and Maggie DeWolf Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Aspen, Colorado. Its core tenet is to provide support to groups and organizations interested in improving the quality of life and education in the world. During the winter, Aspen Center for Physics hosts week-long conferences, and during each conference one of the conference participants is asked to give a public physics talk. You can watch past talks on our YouTube channel here.

Nick DeWolf and fountain.