Wednesday, January 26

James Webb Space Telescope: Everything You Need To Know | Digital Trends Spanish

The largest and most powerful telescope ever built by mankind. The successor to the historic Hubble. The observatory that will allow the origin of the first galaxies to be traced. This is how the James Webb space telescope, and that it is about to take its first steps.

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After 25 years of development, the James Webb is ready to be launched into space on December 24, 2021, in one of the most ambitious missions in NASA’s history and for which it has also partnered with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.

The telescope will have the ability to explore planets and bodies in the Solar System in previously unseen detail, collect signals from the formation of the first galaxies, search for new stars in formation, and analyze key features of black holes, among other functions.

What is the James Webb Telescope

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Construction of the James Web Space Telescope began by NASA in 1996, as part of Hubble’s scheduled replacement process.

Originally called the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), since 2002 it adopted the name of the second NASA administrator and a key player in the development of the Apollo program.

According to NASA, its technology will allow the study of every phase of cosmic history, from the interior of the Solar System to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.

With a 3-foot-wide primary mirror, four measuring instruments, and a tennis-court-sized solar panel, these are the main specifications of the space telescope:

  • Primary mirror size: 3 feet (6.5 meters) wide.
  • Mirror shape: It is made up of 18 gold-plated drop-down hexagonal segments.
  • Solar panel: the five-layer drop down panel is the size of a tennis court.
  • Instruments: near infrared camera (NIRCam), near infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec), mid infrared instrument (MIRI) and near infrared imager and slitless spectrograph (NIRISS) with the fine guide sensor (FGS).
  • Wavelength: visible, near infrared, mid infrared (0.6-28.5 microns).
  • Travel distance: 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth.
  • Spacial location: orbiting the Sun around the second Lagrange point (L2).

What are the objectives of the James Webb Space Telescope

James Webb Telescope

It is estimated that you will be able to contemplate the time when the first stars and galaxies formed, more than 13.5 billion years ago, a part of space and time never seen before.

How will do? Due to the continuous expansion of the universe, the ultraviolet and visible light emitted by the first luminous objects has been stretched or “reddish”. Today it comes as infrared light. Those are the signals the Webb will be looking for, as it is designed to capture them with “unprecedented resolution and sensitivity,” according to NASA.

“The Webb infrared telescope will explore a wide range of scientific questions to help us understand the origins of the universe and our place in it,” says NASA.

The telescope is also expected to be useful for studying planets and other bodies in the Solar System to determine their origin and evolution and to compare them with exoplanets, as planets that orbit other stars are known.

Exoplanets are precisely another of its objects of interest. You will observe those that are located in the habitable zones of their respective stars, that is, the regions where a planet has the capacity to host liquid water on its surface; and you will have the ability to determine where there are habitability characteristics.

Another of its novelties is its ability to examine the light of the stars filtered through planetary atmospheres, which will allow us to know their chemical compositions.

Where the James Webb Telescope will orbit

James Webb Telescope Orbit

The Webb will be in orbit from the second Lagrange point (L2), one of the five positions in space where the gravitational pull of the Sun and Earth balances the centripetal force required for a spacecraft to move with them.

For these conditions, Lagrange points are particularly useful in reducing the fuel required for a spacecraft to stay in position.

The location also enables continuous communications with Webb through the Deep Space Network, an international array of giant antennas managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

When will the James Webb Telescope be operational?

After its launch, the telescope will travel into an orbit approximately one million miles from Earth and undergo six months of commissioning in space, deploying its mirrors, parasols and other smaller systems.

The observatory must then gradually cool down to cryogenic operating temperatures, before NASA can safely begin operating the science instruments (around 40 kelvins, or less than -380 degrees Fahrenheit).

For the segments of Webb’s primary mirror to act as a single optics, each of the 18 segments must be aligned within a fraction of the wavelength of near-infrared light, something like one-tenth the thickness of a human hair.

The telescope will begin collecting its first images once its commissioning process is complete, which could happen in June or July 2022.

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