The James Webb Space Telescope Updates: A month after taking off on a mission to discover the dawn of the universe, the world’s most powerful space telescope has arrived at its final destination a million miles from Earth. NASA confirmed that the £7.4 billion James Webb Space Telescope entered into orbit around the sun at its assigned place after firing its rocket thrusters for over five minutes.
Before scientific observations can begin in June, the observatory’s mirrors must be precisely positioned and the infrared detectors adequately cold, but flight controllers in Baltimore are already ecstatic.
In a statement, Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said, “We’re one step closer to unraveling the secrets of the cosmos, and I can’t wait to see Webb’s first fresh views of the universe this summer.” Astronomers will be able to see back in time further than ever before, all the way to 13.7 billion years ago, when the first stars and galaxies formed.
It’s only 100 million years since the Big Bang when the universe began. Webb will scan the atmospheres of alien worlds for possible signs of life, in addition to making stellar observations.
The James Webb Space Telescope from NASA
In early January, 10 days following the telescope’s launch from French Guiana on Christmas Day, a sun shield the size of a tennis court spread open on the telescope. The observatory’s gold-coated mirror, which measures 21 feet in diameter, was unveiled a few days later.
Webb was launched into orbit around the sun on Monday at the so-called second Lagrange point, where the sun’s and Earth’s gravitational forces are balanced. To keep its infrared detectors as cold as possible, the seven-ton spaceship always faces Earth’s night side.
Webb is more than four times as far away as the moon at one million miles. Webb is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which orbits 330 miles above the Earth and is too far away to be repaired in an emergency.
That makes the past month’s milestones – and the ones ahead – all the more important. Astronauts operated on Hubble five times during spacewalks. The first operation, in 1993, fixed the telescope’s fuzzy vision, which was caused by a fault introduced during the ground mirror’s construction.