January 18, 2022

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Finally, the James Webb Telescope is on its way

Finally, the James Webb Telescope is on its way

– What a nice day. Now it’s really Christmas time, says Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA, who built the telescope along with Esa and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Tensions in the research community have risen in recent weeks as the launch of the European Space Center at Kourou in French Guiana approaches.

What do astronomers eat for breakfast on the day the NOK 90 billion space telescope will finally be launched into space? joking his nails The New York Times In an issue earlier in December.

Now the first effort was turned on, and the space telescope began its journey after launch, which was broadcast live on Christmas Day.

Today we have given humanity a Christmas gift, says Josef Schbacher, President of the ISSA.

But there are still many errors.

The Ariane 5 launch vehicle carried NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope into space on Saturday. Photo: Chris Jean/Associated Press

nerve wrecking

– It affects the nerves. If I couldn’t take part in the daily launches, it wouldn’t be good for my life expectancy, he says.

Unlike its predecessor, Hubble, which orbits at an altitude of 600 km, James Webb will be 1.5 million km away and orbiting the Sun. The trip takes about a month.

The telescope is named after a former head of NASA, and scientists believe it will be able to show humans what the universe looked like up to the beginning 14 billion years ago.

folds

The space telescope, about the size of a bus, has been folded tightly to fit aboard the Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Outside in the room, it must unfold carefully.

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The space telescope was separated from the rocket half an hour after launch, which occurred at 13.20 Norwegian time on Saturday, and the solar panels were revealed shortly thereafter.

The launch is described as very clean, and the scientists who watched it all cheered and hugged each other with glee.

James Webb’s goal is the so-called L2 Lagrange point. Here, the gravitational force from the Earth and the sun counterbalances the gravitational force the spacecraft needs to move with it, and this allows James Webb to stay there for a long time without using much fuel.

In operation in six months

If all goes according to plan, the process of opening a canopy the size of a tennis court begins two and a half days after launch. It will ensure that the infrared telescope will be highly sensitive in icy shadows when making its observations. The process should take a week.

Then the secondary mirror must open, before the 18 gold-plated plates of the main 6.5 meter mirror are finally folded into place.

After James Webb is in place at L2, it takes another week before the telescope gets cool enough to start tuning.

But it’s not cool enough yet. The so-called mid-infrared (MIRI) device, one of the onboard sensors, must be cooled to minus 267 degrees before it can be fully powered up. It is believed to take something less than 100 days.

Only six months later the quenching, modification, and calibration were completed, and observations could begin.

Big Questions – Big Expectations

The telescope is designed to answer the biggest questions in astronomy today, NASA astrophysicist Amber Straugen said in a statement. TED Lecture in 2017.

Scientists hope to be able to observe conditions 200 million years after the beginning of the universe, and gain new knowledge about the creation of the universe and the first galaxies.

Another important area of ​​research for the new telescope is exoplanets – planets orbiting distant stars.

The James Webb Telescope can help find more and reveal the secrets of those who have already been discovered. By capturing the light that shines through the atmosphere as a planet passes in front of a star, the telescope can provide answers to what it contains.

The competition for watch time is long overdue. NASA said researchers from 41 countries will use the telescope in its first year of operation.

giant project

The project’s roots go back to 1989. Construction began in 2004, and 40 million man-hours were invested in construction, according to NASA. Thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians from 14 countries participated.

A slew of problems along the way led to delays and budget overruns. Compared to the original budget, the price has also doubled. The plan was to send the telescope into space for the first time in 2007. But along the way, it was redesigned, and in 2018, the launch was again delayed.

Then came the epidemic that also affected the James Webb project. When work began again, the launch date was set for October 31, 2021.

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Several postponements

But after several small new problems and difficulties with the Ariane 5 rocket that carried the precious cargo into space, it’s gradually becoming clear that Christmas is the closest possible opportunity.

The telescope should operate for at least five years, maybe ten years – at least that’s the initial plan.