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!
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!