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5 reasons why the James Webb Space Telescope is such a big deal MNN

Many scientists believe that there is another planet like Earth somewhere in the universe, and the search for it begins immediately.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be more powerful than its predecessors and will be able to look further into space to discover distant planets in distant galaxies. It will even give us the tools to look for evidence of an atmosphere that could save life. It is currently planned to launch on March 30, 2021.

There are certainly larger terrestrial telescopes, but as the name suggests, the JWST will roam the atmosphere and offer a stronger clear view of the sky than the historic Hubble Space Telescope could offer. The infrared Webb telescope, financed by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), weighs 6 tons and will orbit 1

.5 million kilometers from Earth. It has many new technological advances, including an extendable sunshade and a foldable segmented mirror.

“To get to the earliest galaxies, we needed a bigger mirror, and that bigger mirror had to look at a higher light frequency,” said astrophysicist Blake Bullock, director at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, the project contractor. “It also had to be kept cold – minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit – to have a tennis court-sized sunshade that functions as a giant parasol,” she adds. “It’s like SPF 1 million blocking sunlight.”

Bullock explains why the JWST is such an impressive undertaking:

1. The James Webb telescope is powerful.

“It is the largest and most powerful telescope that has ever been launched into space. There are large telescopes on the ground, but none of this type and complexity in space. It is undoubtedly the most powerful on the market,” she says.

The Webb is the successor to Hubble and 100 times more powerful. Webb also has a much larger mirror than Hubble, explains the Webb telescope site: “This larger light collection area means that Webb can look back in time more than Hubble can. Hubble is in a very narrow orbit around the earth while Webb Will be 1.5 million kilometers away. ”

NASA recently released a video of the telescope in which the primary mirror is fully installed in the configuration it will have in space:

2. It is a kind of time machine.

“Hubble was able to see galaxies that were teenagers when it was maximum. We want to see babies,” Bullock says. “With the Webb, for the first time we can see back in time to the earliest objects in the universe. For the first time we can also characterize other planets that revolve around other stars, distant exoplanets, and when there are oceans, an atmosphere what chemical elements are there? ”

3. It will help us map the universe.

Technicians inspect the sunscreen on the James Webb Space Telescope
Technicians inspect the James Webb space telescope’s sunshade during a deployment and separation test in 2014. (Photo: NASA’s James Webb space telescope [CC BY 2.0]/ Flickr)

“The Webb telescope will not be able to make a decisive decision as to whether there is definitely life on a planet or not, but it is beginning to depict this space and say: ‘That can be an ocean there’, which gives us one There are road maps that we can investigate further and really investigate, “she says.

Webb will look into the universe in the infrared, which is important because new stars and planets are hiding behind dust that absorbs visible light but infrared light can penetrate that dust.

4. And it can help us find the next earth.

“We plan to study the nature of dark energy in the universe and understand the nature of these very old objects. By characterizing planets around other suns, we are on the way to finding out if there is another earth out there.” The Webb will also help find exoplanets, which Hubble still does, but was not designed to do, according to Space.com.

5. It’s a technological coup.

“It has the potential to fundamentally rewrite our textbooks as it will dramatically improve our view of the cosmos,” said Bullock. “We will be able to understand the universe we live in much better. In terms of technology, we are already seeing the effects.”

Northrop Grumman, who built the telescope’s mirrors, had to break new ground because such a precise mirror had never been created.

“The technology we invented is used by eye surgeons, so there are tangible benefits. We are also learning things at the computer level. We have made great strides in understanding deployables – how we take this giant sunscreen the size of a tennis court and fold it It together. ”

A technician inspects the mirror plates of the James Webb space telescope
In 2010, a technician inspects the mirror plates of the James Webb space telescope. (Photo by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope [CC BY 2.0]/ Flickr)

Webb has a primary mirror with a diameter of 6.5 meters, which offers about seven times the collecting surface above the mirrors of the current generation of space telescopes. According to the Webb website, Webb has a much larger field of view than the camera on Hubble and a much better spatial resolution than the infrared Spitzer space telescope.

The JWST was originally scheduled to launch in 2018, but NASA has pushed it back several times as more time is required to integrate and test components. The JWST will begin its mission in March 2021, when an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana is planned to launch. In March 2020, NASA suspended testing and integration operations to protect workers during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. An update of the schedule is planned for some time in April. The mission remains on course for the time being.

Whenever it starts, the telescope gives us an unprecedented view of the universe. You can see how the fully assembled observatory comes together in the following time lapse:

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its first publication in February 2016.

5 reasons why the James Webb Space Telescope is such a big deal

The much anticipated successor to the Hubble space telescope is scheduled to launch in spring 2021.

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