James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the long awaited successor to the Hubble Space Telescope from which we have received numerous wonderful and famous images of far away stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies. As the successor to the Hubble, there are, of course, some improvements over the Hubble that are being made with the JWST. These improvements are primarily concerned with seeing more, rather than seeing what we can already see better. The resolution of the JWST, then is less important than on the Hubble, and is in fact significantly worse. The JWST, however, will be able to see things that the Hubble was and is unable to. Its mirrors will have a diameter of 6.5 m, more than twice the diameter of the Hubble’s, and giving them more than 6 times the area of the Hubble’s mirrors. This increased surface area allows for a much  greater amount of light to be taken in by the telescope.

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A NASA Engineer stands in front of 6 of the primary mirrors on the JWST [Source]

The telescope is also to be fitted with infrared instruments that are able to detect light in a wider variety of wavelengths than the Hubble telescope. The hope is that this improved light range will allow us to learn more about the beginning of the Universe.

The telescope is planned to have a life of at least 5.5 years, although the hope is that it will last for more than 10. This telescope will be at a greater risk to failure than the Hubble as well due to the nature of its orbit. The Hubble orbits the Earth, and only at a height of about 400 miles. The JWST, on the other hand, will orbit what is called the Sun-Earth Lagrange point, and will be approximately 1 million miles from the Earth. This means that, unlike the Hubble, the JWST will not be serviceable. So, if something goes wrong, as it did with the Hubble, there will be no way for any recovery efforts to be made. This is part of the reason, along with cost, that the JWST has been delayed, so that NASA can ensure that the telescope will operate properly for its entire planned life.

 

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2 thoughts on “James Webb Space Telescope

  1. For something that NASA spent so much time and money on, 5 years seem like an incredibly short time! However, in order to see and explore what we haven’t been able to, I suppose it is a necessity. One million miles away from Earth sure is a long distance– if it breaks, it ain’t getting fixed anytime soon, so it makes sense that Nasa is being so careful about its production. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see some of the amazing imagery this telescope will bring us! 🙂

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  2. It’s exciting that a new telescope is being built! Is there a timeline it is expected to be finished by? After the snafu with the Hubble telescope you can completely understand NASA’s worry of something going wrong, and then adding how far away then JWST will be I’m sure keeps many scientists awake at night. I agree with the other comment that 5 or even 10 years seems like such a short amount of time, but the pictures and knowledge we get from it will be invaluable!

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