Friday, September 30

The James Webb, “the largest and most powerful telescope”, will be launched into space this Saturday after five cancellations

If there are no unforeseen events (again), the James Webb space telescope will be launched this Saturday from the European Space Port of French Guiana, aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Its trip will last one month until reaching the second. Lagrange point (L2), one and a half million kilometers from Earth. The launch is scheduled at 12:20 GMT (13:20 Spanish peninsular time) on Christmas Day.

Initially scheduled for Friday the 24th, the launch was postponed because the weather forecast was not favorable. With this, there are five occasions on which since the spring of 2019 the most ambitious telescope ever designed has been scheduled to be sent into space.

Astrophysicists, astronomers and hobbyists around the world consider this launch a great event in the field of science, because it is the “largest and most powerful telescope ever launched” in the words of the European Space Agency (ESA).

ESA transmits that the telescope left the assembly building last Thursday, inside the 53-meter-high Ariane 5, bound for the French Guiana spaceport. It will be in this launch area where the last controls and preparations prior to takeoff have been carried out. These include filling the Ariane 5’s propellant tanks with liquid hydrogen and oxygen, electrical and software settings, and switching the power source to the internal battery. Once all the steps have been completed, the mission achieves flight clearance 15 minutes before takeoff.

A complex deployment

When it separates from the rocket and begins its journey towards the orbit in which it will operate for the next few years, the James Webb will go through a complex process of deploying in various stages and releasing the hood, antenna and instruments with which it is equipped. “It is a very rehearsed and tested process that we will all be very aware of,” he clarified in statements to the SINC agency. Macarena Garcia Marin, ESA scientist for the development and scientific support and calibration of MIRI / JWST.

James Webb, named after a former NASA administrator, is the result of a joint mission of this US agency, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency. Experts say that “it is designed to answer outstanding questions about the Universe” and “make revolutionary discoveries in all areas of astronomy.”

The first year of observations will spend 20-25% of the observation time studying about 60 or 70 exoplanets

In the first year of observations, the Webb –which has received more than a thousand research proposals from scientific teams from all over the world– will dedicate 20-25% of the observation time to study some 60 or 70 exoplanets. Specifically, it is expected to contribute to expanding the knowledge of the planets of the Solar System such as the gaseous giants and the icy planets, observing their atmospheres and structure. Although also the formation and evolution of stars, planets and galaxies.

Of course, compared to Hubble – which in some way it comes to replace – the new telescope has a drawback: it cannot be repaired, in fact, it was not even designed for that, the ESA scientists have explained.