James Webb Telescope Takes a Million Mile Journey.
The world’s most powerful space telescope went into orbit on Saturday and headed for an outpost 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth, after several delays caused by technical problems.
The James Webb Space Telescope, some three decades and billions of dollars in the making, left Earth encased in its Ariane 5 rocket from the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana.
“What an amazing day. It’s really Christmas, ”said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s chief of science missions, who together with the European and Canadian space agencies, ESA and ACS, built the telescope.
ESA chief Josef Aschbacher said he was “very happy to say that we have put the spacecraft into orbit very precisely … that the Ariane 5 performed extremely well.”
This was key, as placing the spacecraft in orbit helps save on the fuel the telescope will need to reach its final destination and perform well after that.
It is expected to take a month to reach its remote destination. It is set to convey new clues that will help scientists understand more about the origins of the Universe and Earth-like planets beyond our solar system.
Named after a former NASA director, Webb follows in the footsteps of the legendary Hubble, but intends to show humans what the Universe looked like even closer to its birth nearly 14 billion years ago.
Speaking on social media, Webb project co-founder John Mather described the telescope’s unprecedented sensitivity.
“#JWST can see the heat signature of a bumblebee in the distance from the Moon,” he said.
All that power is needed to detect the faint glow emitted billions of years ago by the first galaxies to exist and the first stars to form.
The telescope is unmatched in size and complexity.
Its mirror is 6.5 meters (21 feet) in diameter, three times the size of the Hubble mirror, and is made of 18 hexagonal sections.
It is so large that it had to be folded to fit the rocket. That maneuver was guided by laser and NASA imposed strict isolation measures to limit any contact with the mirrors of the particle telescope or even human breath. Once the rockets have carried Webb 120 kilometers, the ship’s protective nose, called the “fairing,” will be removed to lighten the load. To protect the delicate instrument from pressure changes at that stage, rocket builder Arianespace installed a custom decompression system.
“Exceptional measures for an exceptional customer,” a European Space Agency official said in Kourou on Thursday. The ground crew needed to know if the first leg of the flight was successful approximately 27 minutes after launch.
Once you arrive at your station, the challenge will be to fully unfold the mirror and sunscreen the size of a tennis court. That intimidatingly complex process will take two weeks and must be flawless for Webb to function properly.
Its orbit will be much further away than Hubble’s, which has been 600 kilometers above Earth since 1990. The location of Webb’s orbit is called Lagrange point 2 and it was chosen in part because it will hold the Earth, the Sun, and the Earth. Moon on. the same side of your sunscreen.