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Children learn about the James Webb Space Telescope at Air & Space Museum

At San Diego’s Air & Space Museum, you can see lots of planes. In fact, if you want to know the history of aviation, this is a great place to come.

But, on Thursday, the emphasis was on space — way, way out there in space — and the James Webb Space Telescope.

Unless you happen to be an astrophysicist, it’s hard to know what to make of the images from the Webb telescope, which is mounted on a spacecraft that’s now orbiting the sun.

Fortunately, the museum’s director of education, Becky Gould, helped out.

“I think that you can even treat these images as art and kind of take in the beauty of our galaxy. And then there are ways to simplify things to colors or to things that we do know on Earth," Gould said.

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Mike Damron
A child sports a NASA shirt on Telescope Day at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park on July 14, 2022.

On Thursday, about a dozen children heard from Gould and other museum employees and volunteers about how the giant telescope works.

It was all brought home to them using toys such as stomp rockets, which allows the children to jump on an air bladder that fires off a plastic rocket. And there was more.

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Mike Damron
A group of children jump on stomp rockets at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park on July 14, 2022.

“We have pinwheels that are in a spiral shape so that you can kind of have a 3D model of the galaxies that we’re seeing. And we have some NASA giveaways, and we have some spyglasses that we’re having the children look through, so that they can practice being astronomers just like the people of old," Gould said.

Mike Damron
A girl blows on a pinwheel, used to represent a galaxy, at the Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park on July 14, 2022.

The spyglasses and pinwheels seemed to be a hit, and the children had some ideas about what the Webb telescope does, too.

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Mike Damron
Two boys look through spy glasses to help them understand how telescopes work at the Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park on July 14, 2022.

"It makes it so you can see really close, far,” 8-year-old James Moore said.

Seven-year-old Victoria Woodall said: “It’s a telescope that just went into space."

"It can take photographs,” she added.

It certainly can take photographs, pictures that will, for the rest of all of our lives, show us astonishing new discoveries, create questions that we never before thought to ask and help reveal greater insights into the essence of our existence, indeed of life itself.