NASA launches the successor to Hubble

The space telescope’s giant mirror reflector, as it was in the making. 
Credit: Wikipedia Commons; NASA/Desiree Stover

By Zaki Abbasi

Feb 3, 2022

SAN JOSE, CALIF. – On Dec. 25, 2021, NASA launched a rocket with the long-awaited James Webb Telescope, the successor of the famous Hubble Telescope. Three, two, one. Takeoff! While the idea of the telescope was proposed in 1996, it was built for over 26 years and finally launched a month ago. Now, the James Webb Telescope will see even further and better than Hubble ever could. 

According to About Webb/NASA, “Webb will be the…observatory of the next decade, serving…astronomers worldwide. It will study…[phases] in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first…glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on [Earth like planets], to the evolution of our own Solar System.”

The making of the telescope was no easy task; it required the work of thousands and had many well-planned stages that it needed to take. The first stage was the design and development of the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope), the next was the construction, and then the deployment and launch of the JWST. 

The JWST itself was made to be the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a telescope satellite that was launched in 1990. It continues to orbit the earth and take pictures of far-away space objects. JWST’s main jobs were eliminating problems that Hubble had, such as being able to take pictures from farther distances, newer technology, a larger optical mirror, capturing light at greater wavelengths, and more maneuverability. Even with all this at stake, NASA was planning to break some records with the making of the telescope. 

Additionally, About Webb/NASA states that “Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb…a primary mirror made of 18 separate segments that unfold and adjust to shape after launch. The mirrors are made of…beryllium. Webb’s biggest feature is a tennis court-sized…sunshield that [diverts] heat from the Sun. The telescope’s four instruments – cameras and spectrometers – have detectors that are able to record extremely faint signals. One instrument (NIRSpec) has…microshutters, which [can take pics of 100 things at a time]. Webb…has a cryocooler for cooling… mid-infrared detectors of…(MIRI) [another instrument] to [very cold temperatures] so [that] they can work.”

And as NASA wanted, when Webb was launched, a major phase was opening its optical mirror, because it was far too large to carry in the rocket without folding it. By Jan. 8 the mirrors of JWST had deployed and opened up, capturing its first images. 

The telescope is named after James E. Webb who was the administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968 and played an important role in the Apollo program. Because of his dedication, humans were able to put people on the moon. The JWST was made in association with NASA, and with the help of the European and Canadian Space Agencies.

Recently, Webb took a selfie from its long probe arms, and also took a few images of stars in the background. The image is shown below:

Credit: cnwicker.com (Image Credit: NASA)

Over time, the James Webb Telescope will become fully deployed and ready to take pictures of faraway space objects. Before Hubble, scientists were limited by old technology. Now, there’s a chance to see things that Hubble may have missed. A useful resource to keep track of JWST’s deployment stages is: Where Is Webb? NASA/Webb, with detailed information from NASA about the satellite. Hopefully one day, we will tell generations to come when we witnessed the launching of the era’s new eye in the sky.

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