Space Tech of the Week: The James Webb Space Telescope

What is it?: The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is NASA's next orbiting observatory and the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. A tennis court-sized telescope orbiting far beyond Earth's moon (1 million miles from the Earth), Webb will detect infrared radiation and be capable of seeing in that wavelength as well as Hubble sees in visible light. JWST is a NASA-led international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

This telescope is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2013 by an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana. Infrared vision is vital to our understanding of the universe. The furthest objects we can detect are seen in infrared light, cooler objects that would otherwise be invisible emit infrared, and infrared light pierces clouds of dust, allowing us to see into their depths.

JWST will have a large mirror, 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis court. Both the mirror and sunshade won't fit onto the rocket fully open, so both will fold up and open only once JWST is in outer space.

The JWST's primary scientific mission has four main components:
  • to search for light from the first stars and galaxies which formed in the Universe after the Big Bang,
  • to study the formation and evolution of galaxies,
  • to understand the formation of stars and planetary systems, and
  • to study planetary systems and the origins of life.

JWST will find the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. JWST will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System. JWST's instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range.

Webb Telescope Site
NASA Webb Telescope Site
Wikipedia Page

No comments:

Post a Comment