After years and years of building, the largest telescope is up and on its route to deployment to figure out the oldest mysteries of the universe.
Its time to understand a little more about this beast, the one with all the answers.
Here are few highlights of this mission:
- Seek the light from the early stars in the universe over 13.5 billion years ago using its gold coated mirrors.
- Explore distant worlds and solar system using a technique called transmission spectroscopy.
- It has the ability to see through thick atmosphere using its infrared cameras.
- It has cameras that are sensitive to heat from the Sun, hence it wears a “hat” to block sunlight from its instruments and mirrors.
- Primary Mirror Size: 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) across
- Mirror Shape: The mirror is comprised of 18 gold-plated hexagonal deployable segments made of beryllium.
- Unshield: Webb’s five-layer deployable sunshield is the size of a tennis court
- Instruments: Webb has four science instruments: Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), and Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) with the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS)
- Wavelength: Visible, Near Infrared, Mid Infrared (0.6-28.5 micrometers)
- Travel Distance: 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth
- Location in space: Orbiting the Sun around the second Lagrange point (L2), this way it is far away from the heat.
This 10 billion dollar project has been planned and developed since 1996. There were numerous tests, delays, errors, reschedules and at last sent off to space on 24th December 2021 – an early Christmas present. Thanks to Ariane 5 rocket in collaboration with NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
Since this telescope is built only to look for infrared light, it has the capacity to look further and unlock the early mysteries of the universe dating since the big bang. It will also help us study the atmospheres of exoplanets. Could the atmospheres of some exoplanets hold the building blocks for life? We will not have to wait longer for an answer.
The James Webb Space Telescope is currently at “Forward Sunshield Pallet” since its launch (Launch+3days) unfolding its five folded sunshield membranes.
Follow the deployment status here at NASA: Where Is Webb? NASA/Webb
Watch its full deployment sequence video at:
Few nice visuals to check out:
Image credit: By James Webb Space Telescope. NASA.
I am a huge fan of the Hubble, it showed us how majestic our universe is, the gift that keeps on giving to this date. I cannot wait to see what James Webb has in store for us.