The James Webb space telescope has reached French Guiana to be launched in orbit on 18 December 2021. It is a joint project between European, American, and Canadian space agencies. This telescope will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in the Earth’s low orbit in the 1990s.
An astronomical mirror of 21ft in diameter will be the biggest ever object sent in the space orbit. Built at the cost of $10 billion, the James Webb observatory reached South America through water via Panama Canal by ship. The entire telescope was built in NASA Goddard space flight center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The principal light-gathering surface of the James Webb space telescope has 18 hexagonal mirror segments. They are made up of beryllium and are gold plated, sizing up to 21 feet three times as large as the previous space telescope, Hubble’s 7 ft 10 inch.
Most Advanced Telescope Ever Sent to Orbit
James Webb will observe in space at a low-frequency range in contrast to the Hubble telescope, which observed near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared. Moreover, the telescope should be kept free from heat to observe the infrared without difficulty.
The telescope will function near Earth-Sun Lagrange point, which is at a distance of around 150,00,00 km from Earth’s orbit. Comparatively, its predecessor telescope Hubble, orbits 550kms above the surface of Earth.
The primary support component of the James Webb telescope is the Spacecraft bus. It hosts computing, communication, propulsion, and other parts, thus combining to form the telescope. Also, the other significant components of the telescope are the Integrated Science instrument module and Optical instrument element.
The spacecraft is connected with an optical telescope element through a deployable tower. Its sun shield dimensions are 22m * 12m, and the operating temperature is measured at around -380F.
The project scientist Antonella Nota remarked – “Webb is building on what Hubble has been able to do in its 31 splendid years in orbit. Hubble, in spite of the fact that it is still a relatively small telescope with a 2.4m primary mirror, has been able to push the horizon of the observable Universe all the way back to a few hundred million years from the Big Bang.
“With a factor of 100 increase in sensitivity, Webb will push way through this and will be really able to see how the first galaxies assembled”.
The engineers have made James Webb telescope particularly for finding the tiny infrared light of earliest galaxies or stars. In comparison to Hubble Space, James Webb has 15 times broader field of view in its camera lens. Moreover it light collection ability is 6 times more with the sensors ever so sensitive to infrared. Moreover, it weighs around 6200 kg, making it the biggest telescope to be launched into space.
Effort Required in Building the Telescope
In the year 1996, James Webb started to be developed at a budget of $500 million. Originally, it was named the Next Generation Space Telescope but was renamed after James Webb, a former administrator of NASA. The initial plan for its launch was in 2007.
However, the project had delays, and its cost increased as it went through a re-design in 2005. Hence, the project was delayed and pushed back for a launch in 2020 but was again postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Four Main Targets
- The reason for the formation of stars and planetary systems in Universe
- To find out the origins of life
- Finding out the light from first stars and galaxies which were formed in Universe post the big bang
- Seeking the formulation and evolution of galaxies
- The reason why the James Webb telescope is expected to garner all these information is that it will travel back in time by over 13 billion years!
In the words of current NASA administrator Bill Nelson – “Webb will look back over 13 billion years to the light created just after the big bang, with the power to show humanity the farthest reaches of space that we have ever seen. We are now very close to unlocking mysteries of the cosmos, thanks to the skills and expertise of our phenomenal team”.
Hence, all the Astrophysicists hope that the Telescope is likely to bring in most of the unknown information regarding dark ages of universe.