The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to Hubble and will soon take its place as the premier telescope of the world in 2018. Its mirror network has been unveiled for the first time by NASA, and it is set to be the core of the new orbiting observatory.
The Hubble Telescope was launched back in 1990. At 26 years old, its time will soon come to retire. Scientists were able to perform maintenance on Hubble when its components failed until 2011 when the Space Shuttle was retired. If a new issue occurs now, Hubble’s life will end since there is no way to repair the orbiting observatory.
This is where the James Webb Space Telescope will step in, taking over just where Hubble left off, but also expanding the capabilities of the telescope with the new technology or this decade. The great reveal was made during the testing and integration of the telescope, and thus, we could see the network comprised of eighteen mirrors in all its splendor. This was the first time since the completion of the mirror that the covers were discarded from the reflecting surface. James Webb is set to become the largest mirror in space when it launches in 2018.
According to Laura Betz from the Goddard Space Flight Center,
“To ensure the mirror is both strong and light, the team made the mirrors out of beryllium. Each mirror segment is about the size of a coffee table and weighs approximately 20 kilograms (46 pounds). A very fine film of vaporized gold coats each segment to improve the mirror’s reflection of infrared light.”
The James Webb Space Telescope is set to become the greatest telescope ever made in history, and countless astronomers from all over the world cannot wait to use it. The main purpose of James Webb will be to study the planets and moon from our solar system, but also other galaxies found close to the edge of the Universe as we see it and exoplanets orbiting stars.
Until its launch, engineers will install more equipment on the space telescope, but also perform numerous test to ensure its survival in the harsh conditions of space. James Webb is the result of the great collaboration between NASA, ESA (The European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
Image Source: Flickr