James Webb Space Telescope

January 12, 2022

Serious Stargazer

The James Webb Space Telescope

“The promise of Webb is not what we know we will discover; it’s what we don’t yet understand or can’t yet fathom about our universe.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on the launch of a historic telescope.

What To Know

  • December 25, 2021: Webb successfully launched from inside of a rocket, folded “like origami.”
  • January 8, 2022: It completed the deploying phase. This included the unfolding of the telescope from the rocket & the deployment of its gold-coated primary mirror.
  • January 24, 2022: Webb successfully landed in its “parking spot,” AKA a location that is closely aligned with the sun, Earth, & moon. Now the telescope will be aligned and prepared for future missions.

“We’ve never put a telescope this large in space. We want to see distant parts of the universe humans have never seen before. Looking back in time, almost 14 billion years, to see the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang. And we want to search for the building blocks of life in the atmospheres of planets orbiting distant stars.”

Begoña Vila, Webb Mission Instrument Systems Engineer. The space tool is an international collaboration between NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), & CSA (Canadian Space Agency). Just how big is it? The mirror measures 21 ft. & the sunshield is the size of a tennis court.

What To Expect

  • In the coming months, the sensors & mirror segments will be turned on & fine-tuned by the ground team based in Baltimore.
  • This summer, Webb will begin official missions & will conduct routine science operations. High quality images will start to be available in June. These unprecedented images will include asteroids, comets, & the weather of distant planets & moons.
  • Webb is expected to function for more than 10 years. The lifetime is limited by the amount of fuel it uses for maintaining orbit & potential degradation of components.

The James Webb Telescope has officially made it to its destination – nearly 1 million miles away. A huge milestone for space discovery, the telescope has been in the making for more than 25 years. It will “study every phase in the history of our universe” using its infrared wavelengths technology.

What makes this telescope different from the Hubble Space Telescope? Webb will not be accessible to astronauts for servicing, unlike Hubble. Webb can also measure much longer wavelengths, making it possible to see galaxies that formed billions of years ago.

The latest updates available in real-time: Where is Webb? (NASA)

by Jenna Lee,