NASA’s James Webb telescope fully deployed in space


Artist’s impression of the James Webb Space Telescope. Photo: NASA

NASA engineers cheered on Saturday as the James Webb Space Telescope completed its two-week deployment phase and deployed its final mirror panel.

At the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, engineering teams observed events in space. The telescope will help them in the study of the history of the cosmos.

People from around the world tune in as the space telescope unfurled the golden flower-shaped mirror.

NASA senior engineer and mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen said during the live online broadcast: “I am emotional about this. What an incredible step. “

Zurbuchen added: “We see this beautiful pattern over there in the sky now.”

Dubbed the Golden Eye of the Space Telescope, the mirror is made from lightweight beryllium. The 18 segments of the mirror are covered with an extremely thin layer of gold which reflects the infrared light extraordinarily.

At a cost of $ 10 billion (Rs 74,300 crore), the James Webb Space Telescope is far more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.

What is the James Webb Space Telescope?

The space telescope’s infrared technology will make it possible to observe the first stars and galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago. Astronomers hope to glean new knowledge about the origins of the universe.

The space telescope took off on Christmas Day aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana, beginning its 1.5 million kilometer journey through space to its orbital point – one of the Lagrange points . It should get there in a few weeks, but almost six months of setup are still needed.

The space telescope was too big to be carried in a rocket in its operational form, so it had to be collapsed, like origami, to fit.

Deploying the telescope has proven remarkably difficult and could be one of NASA’s most difficult projects, the U.S. space agency said.

“We still have work to do,” NASA said as the space telescope wing fell into place. “When the last latch is secured, NASA Webb will be fully extended into space.”

The space agency’s telescope blog said the deployment of the mirrors was “the last of the major deployments to the observatory.”

What additional work is needed to make the space telescope operational?

The final steps in setting up the telescope include calibrating scientific instruments and aligning its optics.

This week, the James Webb Space Telescope also untangled its sunshade, its five layers, in what was considered the riskiest part of the deployment operation.

The 21-meter kite-shaped umbrella will keep scientific instruments in a sub-zero shadow so that it can pick up infrared signals from the far reaches of the universe.

The shield will be deployed to protect the space telescope from sunlight, Earth and moon and can protect it at temperatures up to 110º C.

If all goes as planned, scientific telescope observation can begin this summer.

This article first appeared on DW and has been republished here with permission.


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