World's most powerful space telescope to take off
The James Webb Space Telescope is set to be launched Saturday to outer space to show what the universe looked like even closer to its birth nearly 14 billion years ago.
The world's most powerful space telescope is set to take off on Saturday to its outpost 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth, after several delays caused by technical hitches.
The James Webb Space Telescope, some three decades and billions of dollars in the making, will leave Earth enclosed in its Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana.
The launch, scheduled in a brief window after 9:20 am (12:20 GMT), will send the telescope on a month-long journey to its remote orbit.
☀️ The latest weather forecast has arrived, and we are still GO for launch of #NASAWebb tomorrow, Dec. 25 at 7:20 am ET (12:20 UTC)! Watch live at https://t.co/E0iKHwugcn 📺— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) December 24, 2021
More info: https://t.co/uJ870FimeI
📷 : NASA/Chris Gunn, captured Dec 23. pic.twitter.com/i4dg9Nro6y
It is expected to send back new clues that will help scientists understand more about the origins of the Universe and Earth-like planets beyond our solar system.
Named after a former NASA director, Webb follows in the footsteps of the legendary Hubble -- but intends to show humans what the Universe looked like even closer to its birth nearly 14 billion years ago.
Speaking on social media, Webb project co-founder John Mather described the telescope's unprecedented sensitivity, saying, "#JWST can see the heat signature of a bumblebee at the distance of the Moon."
All that power is needed to detect the weak glow emitted billions of years ago by the very first galaxies to exist and the first stars being formed.
With the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, we might know the answers to a lot of questions. "What did the early universe look like?" is just one of them.#jameswebbspacetelescope pic.twitter.com/r0jNtcIbbT— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) November 6, 2021
Complex first stage
The telescope is unequaled both in size and complexity.
Its mirror measures 6.5 meters (21 feet) in diameter -- three times the size of the Hubble's mirror -- and is made of 18 hexagonal sections. It is so large that it had to be folded to fit into the rocket.
Before the James Webb Space Telescope can #UnfoldTheUniverse, it has to literally unfold. Find mission updates at:— NASA (@NASA) December 21, 2021
- @NASAWebb (play-by-play)
- https://t.co/sGBPzkchmf (milestones)
- @NASA (livestreams)
- https://t.co/ht9HRe1k1U (major news)
Timeline: https://t.co/aY8ybuWvnW pic.twitter.com/NhMkZiFWH6
That maneuver was laser-guided with NASA imposing strict isolation measures to limit any contact with the telescope's mirrors from particles or even human breath.
"Exceptional measures for an exceptional client," said a European Space Agency official in Kourou on Thursday.
The crew on the ground will know whether the first stage of the flight was successful about 27 minutes after launch.
Once it reaches its station, the challenge will be to fully deploy the mirror and a tennis-court-sized sun shield.
That intimidatingly complex process will take two weeks and must be flawless if Webb is to function correctly.
Its orbit will be much farther than Hubble, which has been 600 kilometers above the Earth since 1990. Webb is expected to officially enter service in June.