NASA fully deploys James Webb telescope in space

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Jan 09, 2022, 07:43 AM(IST)

In this still picture from a NASA TV broadcast, the James Webb Space Telescope separates from Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket after launching from Europe’s Spaceport, the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, on December 25, 2021 Photograph:( AFP )

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NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is enabling humanity to observe reaches of space with a wholly new generation of technology. Web telescope will be the successor of aging Hubble Space Telescope. The unfolding process of the Webb telescope is complete

James Webb Space Telescope was to open a whole new vista for humanity in space. This much was definitely known. But deployment of the most powerful telescope ever built was a challenge as it needed careful unfolding of its components. The major milestone was achieved on Saturday (January 8) as the tricky, two-week-long deployment process was completed. The final golden mirror panel was unfolded.

Teams in NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's control room cheered on confirmation that the space telescope's final wing was deployed and latched into place.

James Webb

"I'm emotional about it -- what an amazing milestone," Thomas Zurbuchen, a senior NASA engineer, said during the live video feed as stargazers worldwide celebrated.

Because the telescope was too large to fit into a rocket's nose cone in its operational configuration, it was transported folded up.

Unfurling has been a complex and risky task -- "arguably the most challenging deployment program ever done by NASA," said NASA engineer Mike Menzel.

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On Saturday morning, engineers sent a command from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland for the final section of golden mirror to unfold.

According to NASA, after the mirror was latched into place at 1:17 PM (1817 GMT), "the team declared all major deployments successfully completed."

"I want to tell you just how excited and emotional I am right now," said Zurbuchen on the live video feed. "We have a deployed telescope on orbit."

Webb, the successor to Hubble, blasted off in an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana on December 25, and is heading to its orbital point, a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth.

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Though Webb will reach its space destination, known as the second Lagrange point, in a matter of weeks, it still has around another five and a half months of setup to go.

"While the journey is not complete, I join the Webb team in breathing a little easier and imagining the future breakthroughs bound to inspire the world," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Next steps include aligning the telescope's optics, and calibrating its scientific instruments.

Far reaches of the Universe

Its infrared technology will allow it to see the first stars and galaxies that formed 13.5 billion years ago, giving astronomers new insight into the earliest epoch of the Universe.

Earlier this week, the telescope deployed its five-layered sunshield -- a 70-foot (21 meter) long, kite-shaped apparatus that acts like a parasol, ensuring Webb's instruments are kept in the shade so they can detect faint infrared signals from the far reaches of the Universe.

The sunshield will be permanently positioned between the telescope and the Sun, Earth and Moon, with the Sun-facing side built to withstand 230 degrees Fahrenheit (110 degrees Celsius).

Visible and ultraviolet light emitted by the very first luminous objects has been stretched by the Universe's expansion, and arrives today in the form of infrared, which Webb is equipped to detect with unprecedented clarity.

Its mission also includes the study of distant planets to determine their origin, evolution, and habitability.

(With inputs from agencies)

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