The putting into orbit of the James Webb Telescope (JWST) in the coming months will mark an important step in the search for life on the exoplanets of our galaxy.

“The JWST - which will succeed the Hubble telescope, launched in 1990 - will in particular make it possible to better analyze the infrared radiation emitted by exoplanets. Knowing that this light can be broken down to find out what types of gases are on these planets, scientists will be able to more easily determine the existence or not of an atmosphere. "

Source: Radio-Canada

The following activities will help students understand what exactly scientists are looking for and what role Canada plays in the search for extraterrestrial life.


At the end of the activities, the student will be able to:

- Discover the objectives of the James Webb telescope and understand the role of Canada in its design;
- Understand what exoplanets are;
- Watch an animation on the Universe;
- Summarize information about the James Webb telescope;
- Express themselves on the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Suggested Activities

ACTIVITY 1: Search for extraterrestrial life

First, tell the students that Canada is actively involved in the search for extraterrestrial life. Then ask students if they know what role Canada plays in this research. Invite students to read the following Radio-Canada article.

Then ask the following questions to check students' understanding:

- What are the three essential conditions for the appearance of life?
- What is the name of the telescope which will succeed the Hubble telescope?
- Why is there mention of "race against time" in the article?
- How is Canada participating in the construction of the James Webb telescope?
- Why will the analysis of exoplanets take a long time?

Finally, as a whole class, watch this excerpt from theDiscovery showe in order to understand what exoplanets are.

ACTIVITY 2: The Universe

In order to better understand how our universe is made up, as a whole class watch the following animation:

ACTIVITY 3: The James Webb Telescope

To learn more about the James Webb Telescope, invite students to develop the branches in the following diagram using the information found on the website of theCanadian space agency :

Download the source file in Inspiration (.isf) format
Download the file in PDF format (.pdf)

For further

As a whole class, discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life being discovered using the James Webb Telescope. In what form could this extraterrestrial life be according to them?

More about the magazine

Extraterrestrial life: researchers are embarking on a new path
Sciences et Avenir, April 6, 2016

Extraterrestrials: two astronomers finally know how to flush them out
Futura-Sciences article, March 3, 2016

The mirror of the future James Webb telescope fully assembled
Sciences et Avenir, February 5, 2016

Is extraterrestrial life possible?
ARTE television channel file

James-Webb (space telescope)
Wikipedia article