James Webb Space Telescope


What you’re looking at are human beings assembling humanity’s most advanced space telescope to date. At this very moment, the James Webb Space Telescope (@NASAWebbTelescp) is being assembled. To keep up to date on its progress, you can visit NASA’s dedicated web page on the scope.

Here’s what you should know. 

The James Webb Space Telescope (aka JWST or Webb) will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror, launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in October 2018, and will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. JWST will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System. Formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb

JWST is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort, with the main industrial partner being Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate JWST after launch. Over 1000 people in more than 17 countries are developing the James Webb Space Telescope. Shown above are team members in front of the JWST full-scale model at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Several innovative technologies have been developed for JWST. These include a primary mirror made of 18 separate segments that unfold and adjust to shape after launch. The mirrors are made of ultra-lightweight beryllium. JWST’s biggest feature is a tennis court sized five-layer sunshield that attenuates heat from the Sun more than a million times. The telescope’s four instruments - cameras and spectrometers - have detectors that are able to record extremely faint signals. One instrument (NIRSpec) has programmable microshutters, which enable observation up to 100 objects simultaneously. JWST also has a cryocooler for cooling the mid-infrared detectors of another instrument (MIRI) to a very cold 7 degrees Kelvin so they can work.

Of the myriad of capabilities Webb will have over the now 25 year old Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the most fascinating aspects of the JWST will be all we expect to learn, along with discoveries it will enable of which we couldn’t possibly anticipate. To expand on this further, see the video ‘Beyond Hubble: The James Webb Space Telescope’ (below), courtesy of Coconut Science Laboratory:

Although there’s so much more to say about the JWST, I recommend visiting http://jwst.nasa.gov/ to browse the trove of resources available. And because @nasa prides itself on being a transparent and inclusive organization, everyone can view the past and present progress being made through the live web cams which provide fresh views every 60 seconds! 

Watch the Webb In Progress

Share this with everyone! We are all crew members aboard this terrestrial spaceship, and although we all share the same window to the universe, not everyone has the influences around them to assist in helping refine their questions, and ultimately, change their perspective regarding their ‘place in space’. Every person you reach and inform about the incredible science that’s being done around our busy world, the immeasurable impact you could have on their life and the subsequent lives they influence. Engage and educate! 

– Rich @sagansense 

 Still curious about JWST? Take a 3D tour and explore it for yourself!

Speed of a Planet’s Rotation Has Huge Effect on Possibility of Life

“Rotation can have a huge effect, and lots of planets that we previously thought were definitely not habitable now can be considered as candidates,” says Dorian Abbot of the University of Chicago. New research has revealed that the rate at which a planet spins is instrumental in its ability to support life. Not only does rotation control the length of day and night, it can also tug on the winds that blow through the atmosphere and ultimately influence cloud formation.

There are currently almost 2,000 extrasolar planets known to us, but most are inhospitable gas giants. Thanks to NASA’s Kepler mission, a handful of smaller, rockier planets have been discovered within the habitable zones of their stars that could provide a niche for alien life.

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Nasa Needs Help (Important!)

In 2002 the Bush administration, upset over an over-budget, slow-moving program, cancelled a NASA exploration mission.

That mission was called New Horizons and it was supposed to finally bring us to Pluto.

As you well know, NASA recently got to Pluto. New Horizons wasn’t cancelled. The only reason it survived was because a small group of science lovers banded together and flooded the halls of Congress with demands to float this mission into the unknown.

The Planetary Society is that group. I volunteer for the Planetary Society and am here on their behalf now with a plea:

NASA is in trouble. This year in particular things look bad.

It’s an election year. Many senators are running for president and quite a few are willing to shut down the government to make a point or to further their careers.

During Ted Cruz’s 2013 government shutdown NASA was left with only 550 people to keep the astronauts aboard the space station alive, to ensure the rovers on Mars are alright and essentially all other crucial NASA endeavors survived until Congress got its act together.

We mustn’t let this happen again.

The mission to Europa is barely getting the proper support to move forward. It’s still in tremendous danger of getting nixed.

The President’s requested the cancellation of the Opportunity rover (it’s already on Mars!) and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

If we’re lax with our representatives we might be putting the James Webb Space Telescope in a position to miss its 2018 launch window.

The only thing we need is your voice.

Right now Congress is on a five-week break until Labor Day. Why should we allow them to leave for vacation without writing a budget for NASA? Do you think it’s okay that they break and not return until NASA’s current funding has all but expired? Lets flood their inboxes and make our voices heard.

If a congressperson doesn’t have a strong opinion on something they typically revert to what their constituents want. Luckily there’s hardly any strong “anti-planetary science” opinion in Congress.

Click here to sign our petition. It find your representatives and senators for you. Just fill the form out.

Because we did this years ago we can now sift through images of the wonders of Pluto. In another fifteen years we might be reading headline news articles about the discovery of extra terrestrial life on Europa.

Sign the petition here and please please please, spread this message. We can’t do this without you.

(Image credit: Matthew Woodson)

World's Largest Space Telescope Is Complete, Expected to Launch in 2018
The James Webb Space Telescope is fully assembled, officials said Nov. 2 — and on track for an October 2018 launch.

After more than 20 years of construction, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is complete and, following in-depth testing, the largest-ever space telescope is expected to launch within two years, NASA officials announced today (Nov. 2).

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden hosted a news conference to announce the milestone this morning at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, overlooking the 18 large mirrors that will collect infrared light, sheltered behind a tennis-court-size sun shield. JWST is considered the successor to NASA’s iconic Hubble Space Telescope.

“Today, we’re celebrating the fact that our telescope is finished, and we’re about to prove that it works,” said John Mather, an astrophysicist and senior project scientist for the telescope. “We’ve done two decades of innovation and hard work, and this is the result — we’re opening up a whole new territory of astronomy.”

The telescope will be much more powerful than even Hubble for two main reasons, Mather said at the conference. First, it will be the biggest telescope mirror to fly in space. “You can see this beautiful, gold telescope is seven times the collecting area of the Hubble telescope,” Mather said. And second, it is designed to collect infrared light, which Hubble is not very sensitive to.

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It’s Hanko de Mayo!

It’s Hanko de Mayo! We all know Hank loves the James Webb Space Telescope, so hopefully he’ll like our gift. In addition to his gift, nerdfighteria is celebrating Hank’s birthday by letting our elected officials know that Increasing Awesome through scientific exploration is important to us. You’ll find the email I wrote my congressperson and senators below. You can copy it, amend it, or write your own. Here’s how:


Find your congressional representative here:


And your senators here:


Click through to their contact pages to email them.


I do not know how to email your representatives, but I do know that it is possible in every democratic country, and since the James Webb Space Telescope is a collaboration among many nations, it’s likely that your government is involved. So let them know how much space exploration and science funding matter to you!

Here’s my letter:

Dear Congressman Carson,

My name is John Green. I’m a voter in your district, and I’m contacting you to ask that you work to increase federal government support for NASA and other scientific initiatives. NASA projects like the James Webb Space Telescope offer us the opportunity to understand the very beginning of our universe. For centuries, government-backed scientific programs have improved the lives of every person on the planet, and they are a gift to every person who will live after us. It’s vital that the United States lead the world in increasing awesome through scientific exploration and discovery. So please support NASA and projects like the James Webb Space Telescope.

It’s a big universe. And it is our privilege and responsibility as human beings to work to understand and appreciate it.

Best wishes,

John Green

HUGE thanks to everyone at NASA and Northrop Grumman who made Hank’s present possible, especially Ron Birk, Charlie Atkinson, and Rolf Danner. And thanks to Michael Gardner at ecogeek for facilitating the whole process. Happy Hanko de Mayo!

Could Glitter Help Solve NASA’s Giant Telescope Problem?

“NASA is building a new space telescope with astounding capabilities. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018, will replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope and will provide unprecedented views of the first galaxies to form in the early universe. It might even offer the first clear glimpse of an Earth-like planet orbiting a distant star.

But there’s a problem with the James Webb telescope: It’s expensive.”

Learn more from npr.


Biomimicry at its finest.

For the uninitiated, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) - due to launch in 2018 - is a 6.5 meter telescope which will peer 13.5 billion years into the early universe, revealing the meticulous formation and cosmic evolution of stars and galaxies. JWST’s infrared capability will permit insight into the birth of planetary and stellar systems within the densely opaque interstellar dust clouds which visible-light observatories - such as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) - cannot provide.

The JWST will aid in the search for life in the universe by analyzing the atmospheres of extrasolar planets or, planetary bodies orbiting stars outside our solar system. Understanding the atmospheric chemical composition of other atmospheres will guide our roughly 13.8-14.5 billion year quest to find the building blocks of life in the universe.

An international collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), European Space Agency (ESA), and Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the JWST will be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Northrop Grumman, and after launch, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which also currently operates the Hubble Space Telescope as a part of John Hopkins University.

The scientific instrumentation and technological implementation integrated into JWST is easily accessible through NASA’s “Explore James Webb Space Telescope” page, an interactive headquarters with the status of JWST’s development, photos/animation/videos, recent news publications, and more.

The “James Webb” in James Webb Space Telescope serves as a respectful ode to NASA’s former second administrator - James E. Webb - an influential proponent for space science throughout and beyond the Apollo program. When chosen to be administrator for NASA, Webb is quoted as saying, “I’m not going to run a program that’s just a one-shot program. If you want me to be the administrator, it’s going to be a balanced program that does the job for the country….”

From NASA’s “Explore JWST” page (where you can learn much more) regarding James E. Webb’s importance to the project:

As NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said when he announced the new name for the next generation space telescope, It is fitting that Hubble’s successor be named in honor of James Webb. Thanks to his efforts, we got our first glimpses at the dramatic landscape of outer space. He took our nation on its first voyages of exploration, turning our imagination into reality. Indeed, he laid the foundations at NASA for one of the most successful periods of astronomical discovery. As a result, we’re rewriting the textbooks today with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope , the Chandra X-ray Observatory , and the James Webb Telescope.

So what’s with the obsessive hexagonal construction inside honeybees’ hives? And why is this honeycomb structure of relative importance to the design of the James Webb Space Telescope and its functionality? NPR Science Correspondent Robert Krulwich explains via the NPR blogpost “What Is It About Bees And Hexagons?”

JWST is one of the most ambitious projects since the deployment and servicing missions of the Hubble Space Telescope. The difference between the two, however, is the James Webb Space Telescope will remain in stable orbit around the sun at Lagrange Point “L2”, which will not permit a spacecraft rendezvous (right now) barring any problems with the hardware. Just as the Apollo 13 mission serves to remind, “failure is not an option.

While at the 30th Space Symposium, I had the privilege of enjoying a conference session with those responsible for James Webb’s creation, implementation, and ultimately, it’s success and discovery: Blake Bullock, Director, Civil Air and Space, Business & Advanced Systems Development - Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems; Dave Gallagher, Director for Astronomy, Physics and Space Technology - NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; John M. Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate - NASA; Matt Mountain, Director, Space Telescope Science Institute; John C. Mather, Senior Project Scientist, James Webb Space Telescope - NASA; and Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science and Physics - Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was by far one of the most inspiring discussions regarding the future I’ve experienced thus far.

I encourage everyone to watch National Geographic’s informative and 4-minute brief video “Building the Largest Space Telescope Ever for a wonderful introduction to this monumental human effort.

Recommended: my archive specific to JWST.

Generations of Exploration: From Hubble to the James Webb Space Telescope

If you think the list of achievements of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is impressive, consider that its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will sport a mirror 21 feet across, with more than 20 times the light-collecting capability of its predecessor!

Learn more from astronomer Ben Burress of Chabot Space & Science Center.

NASA’s gold-covered James Webb Space Telescope could reveal incredible new worlds

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the most powerful space telescope ever built, according to NASA. The secret to its power lies in its giant beryllium mirror, which will be 6 times the area of Hubble’s, so it will be able to gather much more light. Astronomers have big goals for JWST. Here’s what it could find.

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Engineers Clean Mirror with Carbon Dioxide Snow by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
Via Flickr:
Just like drivers sometimes use snow to clean their car mirrors in winter, two Exelis Inc. engineers are practicing "snow cleaning’" on a test telescope mirror for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. By shooting carbon dioxide snow at the surface, engineers are able to clean large telescope mirrors without scratching them. "The snow-like crystals (carbon dioxide snow) knock contaminate particulates and molecules off the mirror," said Lee Feinberg, NASA optical telescope element manager. This technique will only be used if the James Webb Space Telescope’s mirror is contaminated during integration and testing. The Webb telescope is the scientific successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. With a mirror seven times as large as Hubble’s and infrared capability, Webb will be capturing light from 13.5 billion light years away. To do this, its mirror must be kept super clean. "Small dust particles or molecules can impact the science that can be done with the Webb," said Feinberg. "So cleanliness especially on the mirrors is critical." Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn Text credit: Laura Betz, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

NASA’s Next Great Space Telescope Passes Major Milestone

The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s next flagship space observatory, has passed a major milestone on its road to its planned 2018 launch: the delivery of the last three mirrors that will make up its complicated infrared-seeking innards.

The mirror delivery for the $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope lays a critical brick in the road toward deploying the most powerful space telescope ever built. When complete, the telescope is expected to have seven times the light-collecting power of its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, and should provide answers to questions about the early universe and the chances of life on other planets.

The telescope “is an absolutely impressive piece of engineering and includes technologies that make this spacecraft unlike any other we’ve ever developed before,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a news conference here Monday (Feb. 3), adding that the telescope is on track for launch in 2018.

YAAAASSSS!! Get your life JWST! :D

ESA confirms James Webb Space Telescope Ariane launch

The next great space observatory took a step closer when The European Space Agency signed the contract with Arianespace that will see the James Webb Space Telescope launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou in October 2018.

Ariane is part of the European contribution to the cooperative mission with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, along with two of the four state-of-the-art science instruments for infrared observations of the Universe.

The telescope’s wide range of targets includes detecting the first galaxies in the Universe and following their evolution over cosmic time, witnessing the birth of new stars and their planetary systems, and studying planets in our Solar System and around other stars.

With a 6.5 m-diameter telescope, the observatory must be launched folded up inside Ariane’s fairing. The 6.6 tonne craft will begin unfolding shortly after launch, once en route to its operating position some 1.5 million km from Earth on the anti-sunward side.

“With this key contract now in place with our long-standing partners, we are closer than ever to seeing the scientific goals of this next-generation space observatory realised,” says Jan Woerner, ESA’s Director General.

read more here
image credit: NASA/MSFC/David Higginbotham

The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018 will have amazing sight with 18 mirror segments. To polish the telescope’s mirror segments, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center contracted with L3 Communications’ Tinsley Facility in Richmond, California.  WaveFront Sciences of Albuquerque,  a subcontractor to L3 at the time, developed a system for testing the large mirrors after grinding.

This test called the infrared Scanning Shack Hartmann System has allowed improvements in the machines for testing human eyes for Lasik surgery. Dan Neal, cofounder of WaveFront Sciences, said that “We were trying to solve one problem for JWST, and the tool we developed turned out to have many applications. The techniques for JWST needed to be able to measure a wide variation of shapes, and those are the same techniques we’ve used in designing instruments to measure the eye. 

WaveFront Sciences spunoff the James Webb Space Telescope technology into the Complete Ophthalmic Analysis System (COAS). COAS was designed for diagnosing eye conditions and providing a detailed map of the eye and supports research in cataracts, keratoconus, and eye movement. Then when WaveFront Sciences was acquired by Abbott Medical Optics, COAS was adapted into a new product called the iDesign Advanced WaveScan Studio. iDesign Advanced WaveScan Studio is used by doctors to measure a patient’s eye in just three seconds and then create a map of the Lasik treatment needed for correction.

Learn more about how the James Webb Space Telescope technology has been used to improve eye surgery here.

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