Selection of the first James Webb Space Telescope General Observer Scientific Programmes

The General Observer scientific observations for the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope’s first year of operation have been selected. Proposals from ESA member states comprise 33% of the total number of selected proposals and correspond to 30% of the available telescope time on Webb.

Mission officials for Webb have announced the selection of the General Observer programmes for the telescope’s first year, known as Cycle 1. These specific programmes will provide the astronomical community worldwide with their first extensive opportunity to investigate scientific targets with Webb. The selected proposals address a wide variety of science areas and will help fulfill ESA’s overarching mission to further our understanding of the Universe and our place in it.

General Observer time with Webb is extremely competitive. As a result, the proposal selection process is rigorous. Members of the astronomical community were assigned to different panels covering broad scientific topics. Of these, 52 were from ESA member states. The panels met virtually, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, over the course of three weeks and members spent additional countless hours reading and assessing the proposals.

A total of 1172 proposals were received before the deadline. Scientists from 44 countries applied for a portion of the 6000 observing hours made available. This represents about two-thirds of all Cycle 1 observing time, the rest of which is allocated to Early Release Science and Guaranteed Time (GTO) programmes. Of the 266 selected observing proposals, 33% are from ESA member states, corresponding to 30% of the available telescope time on Webb during the first cycle. Furthermore, of the selected proposals, 41% will primarily use Webb’s NIRSpec instrument and 28% will primarily make use of the MIRI instrument.