James Webb Space Telescope:
Engineers have unboxed the James Webb Space Telescope in French Guiana and will now prepare it for launch.
- JWST is one of the grand scientific projects of the 21st Century and will ride to orbit on 18 December.
- JWST is a joint venture between the US (Nasa), European (Esa) and Canadian space agencies (CSA).
- It is an orbiting infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity.
- Webb was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST) and it was renamed in 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.
- It will be a large infrared telescope with an approximately 6.5 meter primary mirror
- It will look deeper into the cosmos – and thus further back in time – than is possible with Hubble.
- It will do this with a much bigger mirror (6.5m in diameter versus 2.4m) and instruments that are tuned to the infrared.
- Scientists hope this set-up can detect the light from the very first population of stars in the Universe to switch on more than 13.5 billion years ago.
- The Hubble Space Telescope orbits around the Earth at an altitude of ~570 km above it.
- Webb will not actually orbit the Earth, instead it will sit at the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point,5 million km away.
- At the L2 point Webb’s solar shield will block the light from the Sun, Earth, and Moon which will help Webb stay cool, which is very important for an infrared telescope.