The Webb Telescope embarks on a daring search to contemplate the first stars



The world’s largest and most powerful space telescope was launched on Saturday in a high-risk search to contemplate the light of the first stars and galaxies and traverse the universe in search of life clues.

NASA’s James Webb space telescope flew from French Guiana to the northeast coast of South America, mounting a European Ariane rocket into the Christmas morning sky.

The $ 10 billion observatory rushed to its destination a million miles away, or more than four times beyond the moon. It will take a month to get there and five more months before your infrared eyes are ready to start scanning the cosmos.

First, you need to deploy the huge mirror and parasol of the telescope; they were bent in origami style to fit the cone of the rocket’s nose. Otherwise, the observatory will not be able to look back in time 13.7 billion years as expected, in just 100 million years after the Big Bang that forms the universe.

“It will give us a better understanding of our universe and our place in it: who we are, what we are, the search that is eternal,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said earlier this week.

But he warned: “When you want a big reward, you usually have to take a big risk.”

Destined as the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope, the long-delayed James Webb was named NASA Administrator during the 1960s. NASA partnered with European and Canadian space agencies to build and launch the new 7-ton telescope, with thousands of people from 29 countries working on it since the 1990s.

With the launch falling on Christmas during a global surge in COVID-19 cases, there were fewer spectators at the French Guiana launch site than would normally have been expected. Nelson retired, along with a congressional delegation and many contractors working on the telescope.

All over the world, astronomers had been looking forward to Webb finally wanting it after years of setbacks. Last-minute technical issues pushed the launch for almost a week, then strong winds pushed it into Christmas morning. Inside the launch control, there were some Santa hats. Applause and applause erupted in the center after Webb’s impeccable release, with jubilant scientists embracing each other and repeated exclamations of “Go Webb!”

“We are launching for humanity this morning,” said Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel. “After Webb, we’ll never see the sky the same way.”

The telescope sample: a gold-plated mirror over 21 feet in diameter.

The observatory’s protection is a five-layer sunscreen, vital for maintaining the light-gathering mirror and heat-detecting infrared detectors at sub-zero temperatures. At 70 feet by 46 feet, it is the size of a tennis court.

If all goes well, the parasol will open three days after takeoff, taking at least five days to unfold and lock in place. The mirror segments should then open like the leaves of a fallen leaf table, about 12 days after the flight.

In all, hundreds of release mechanisms must work perfectly for the telescope to be successful. “Like nothing we’ve done before,” said NASA program director Greg Robinson.

Retired astronaut and astronomer Steven Hawley said he is more stressed by Webb than by Hubble, which launched it into orbit from the space shuttle Discovery in 1990. This is because Webb will be too far away to rescue him. when Hubble turned out. having blurred vision of a faulty mirror.

Astronauts’ repairs in space transformed Hubble into a beloved wonder that has revolutionized the understanding of the universe of humanity, putting its eyes back to 13.4 billion years. It is now up to Webb to get even closer to the Big Bang of 13.8 billion years ago, his sharpest and most powerful infrared vision than Hubble’s is at the shortest visible and ultraviolet wavelengths.

NASA is firing for 10 years of operational life from Webb. Engineers deliberately made the fuel tank accessible for a surcharge by visiting the spacecraft, as long as this technology was available.

When he launched Hubble, “I never would have thought he would still be strong nearly 32 years later,” Hawley, now a professor emeritus at the University of Kansas, said in an email. “I hope in 32 years we can say that JWST did the same.”

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