NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is fully deployed

Artist’s rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope launched on December 25, 2021. (NASA)

The James Webb (Webb) Space Telescope – the largest and most complex scientific telescope — passed spear in space at the top of a European Ariane 5 rocket on December 25, 2021. The 10 billion dollars revolutionary the space observatory – a joint effort between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency – is designed to detect faint infrared the light of the first stars and galaxies formed more than 13.5 billion years ago.

“It’s a time machine,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “It’s going to take us back to the very beginnings of the universe. We’re going to discover incredible things that we never imagined.”

Webb will be able to come back to the formation of the first stars and planets (Credit: NASA)

Shortly after launch, the mission control team on Earth began a series of complex operations maneuvers at from a distance open up the massive 6,161.4 kg (13,584 lb) spaceship. On December 28, 2021, scientists successfully opened Webb’s 70-foot canopy, which had been neatly folded inside the payload launch rocket section. The tennis-court-sized shield consists of five layers of thin plastic sheets, each around the width of a human hair. They are covered with reflective material to shield Webb from the light and heat of the Sun, Earth, and Moon.

“Unfolding Webb’s sun visor in space is a incredible important step, crucial mission success,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb program director at NASA Headquarters. “Thousands of parts had to work with precision so that this marvel of engineering deploy. The team has accomplished a bold feat with the complexity of that deployment – one of the boldest ventures yet for Webb.”

The next challenge was to open Webb’s main mirror. The 21.3-foot-wide (6.5-meter) instrument included 18 gold-plated hexagonal segments arranged across a central post and two side wings. It had been hidden inside the nose cone of the launch rocket. The delicate two-day process ended on January 8, 2022, after the last hex piece of the mirror was successfully locked.

“We have an deployed orbiting telescope,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, told the Webb team after reaching the milestone. magnificent telescope like the world has never seen.”

Webb should reach his final destination — the Earth-Sun 2 (L2) Lagrange Point — on January 23, 2022. Located 930,000 miles from Earth, L2 is perfectly aligned with the Sun and Earth. the gravity of the two large bodies pulling in the same direction will lock the telescope in perfect unison with the year of the Earth orbit around its star. Here, Webb’s large sunshade will be able to fully shield the telescope from light and heat from the Sun and Earth (and Moon), which could hinder its ability to produce infrared light observations.

Webb will track Earth’s orbit around the Sun from L2. (NASA)

“A huge advantage of deep space (like L2), compared to Earth orbit, is that we can shine heat,” said Jonathan P. Gardner, deputy lead project scientist on the Webb Telescope mission and head of the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Webb works in infrared, which is heat radiation. . To see infrared light from distant stars and galaxies, the telescope must be cold. Webb’s large sunshade will shield him from both sunlight and earth light, allowing him to cool to 225 degrees below zero Celsius (minus 370 Fahrenheit).”

Once the spacecraft is in orbit, the mission team will begin testing its four science instruments. They are designed at detect and record infrared wavelengths from ancient stars and galaxies. Scientists will also perfectly align the segments of the primary mirror so that it can act as a single light-gathering surface. If all goes as planned, Webb will begin his historical five-year mission to observe cosmos end of June or beginning of July 2022.

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