Bon Voyage! James Webb space telescope launched on a mission to unfold the universe - see striking pictures

James Webb, which is the world's most powerful space telescope launched in space on Saturday (December 25) on its mission to unfold the universe

World's most powerful space telescope

James Webb, which is the world's most powerful space telescope launched in space on Saturday (December 25) on its mission to unfold the universe. 

The telescope was blasted off into orbit and now is headed to an outpost 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. The launch took place after several delays caused by technical hitches.

(Photograph:AFP)

NASA shared details of the launch

NASA said that the Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket performed the separating from the observatory 27 minutes into the flight. The observatory was released at an altitude of approximately 120 kilometres.

And approximately 30 minutes after launch, Webb unfolded its solar array. The mission managers then confirmed that the solar array was providing power to the observatory.

(Photograph:AFP)

It is named after a former NASA director

The telescope is 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.

"#JWST can see the heat signature of a bumblebee at the distance of the Moon," he said.

(Photograph:AFP)

When will it reach its remote destination?

The telescope left Earth in Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana and it is expected to take a month to reach its remote destination. 

The project is a joint effort with ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency. NASA revealed that the Webb observatory mission will seek the light from the first galaxies in the early universe. It will also explore the solar system, as well as planets orbiting other stars. 

(Photograph:AFP)

'Can't wait to see what it uncovers'

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, "The James Webb Space Telescope represents the ambition that NASA and our partners maintain to propel us forward into the future." He said that the promise of Webb is not what we already know it will discover but what we don't yet understand or can't even fathom about the universe. He also said, "I can’t wait to see what it uncovers!"

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When will it deliver its first images?

The telescope is expected to beam back new clues that will help scientists understand more about the origins of the Universe and Earth-like planets beyond our solar system. Making of the iconic telescope is believed to have taken some three decades and billions of dollars. 

NASA revealed that the space science observatory will now begin six months of commissioning in space. At the end of commissioning, Webb will deliver its first images.

(Photograph:AFP)

Its orbit will be much farther than Hubble

James Webb telescope's orbit will be much farther than Hubble, which has been 600 kilometres above the Earth since 1990.

The location of Webb's orbit is called the Lagrange 2 point and was chosen in part because it will keep the Earth, the Sun and the Moon all on the same side of its sun shield.

(Photograph:AFP)

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