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James Webb Space Telescope - All you need to know to understand the hype.

James Webb space telescope

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

We have no idea what happened. Because space technology has never been so advanced as to answer all of our Star Wars questions or even provide some insight into what life would be like beyond our solar system. Everything we know about space is either a hypothesis or a commonly accepted theory. Even the most well-known event in space, The Big Bang, is an idea rather than a fact. We still don't know what happened when our universe was created. We only have speculations as to what might have happened.

25th December 2021, became the day when mankind takes its first decisive step towards understanding outer space and the creation of the universe. This is the day when the most powerful and the most expensive space telescope to date, the James Webb Space Telescope was launched. JWST is a space telescope developed by NASA with contributions from the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. It is named after James E. Webb, who was the administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968 and a key person in the success of the Apollo program, who was responsible for putting the first man on the moon.

This telescope has been the brainchild of the astronomic community since 1996 and was initially planned to launch in 2007. But due to certain financial delays, it was never launched. Then a major redesign was installed in 2005 which required new test runs and experiments. Furthermore, a ripped sunshield during a practice run, issues with the launch vehicle Ariane 5 rocket crew, and the COVID-19 pandemic all prevented the launch of this telescope.

After almost 25 years of constant redesign and improvement, this telescope is all set to stroll the infinity of space and obtain images of some of the earliest stars dating back to the big bang and other cosmic entities. This is achieved through the implementation of technology that helps capture images in the Infrared region, whereas the Hubble space telescope captured more of the ultraviolet and visible spectrum cosmic entities.


The reason why so much work has gone into this telescope and why it is so well-known is that, In the vastness of space, even light takes a certain time to reach from its source point to the observer. The speed of light in a vacuum is roughly 3×108 m/s and the distance light covers in 1 year with this speed is called a light-year. So, in reality, the light that reaches us now, from distances of hundreds of light-years, has been emitted from the source a long time before. This means the object has left its apparent position long before we received the light.

As light is traveling through the vacuum of space, it emits various types of radiation, mainly ultraviolet, infrared, and visible radiations. The Hubble telescope catches the UV and visible radiation but doesn’t efficiently capture the infrared radiation. This is where the JWST comes in. It can capture visible, infrared, and even certain low-end wavelengths on UV rays to give high resolution, accurate and useful images of celestial objects, which otherwise would have been too old or distant for the Hubble telescope to capture.


The structure of JWST

The primary mirror of JWST, the optical telescope element consists of 18 hexagonal mirror segments made up of gold-plated beryllium, which create a 6.5m diameter mirror, almost thrice as big as the Hubble telescope mirror. The telescope must be maintained at a temperature of 50K ( -223 C) to capture infrared radiation efficiently. This is achieved by covering the entire telescope with 5 layers of sun shield made up of (Silicon + Aluminum) coated Kapton, each layer being as thin as a Hair Strand. The sun shield is roughly equal in size to a Full-sized lawn tennis court (22m x 12m).

Yet, to minimize the effect of the Sun’s gravitational pull and to maintain the required temperature conditions, the telescope is set to move in a geostationary orbit it is placed at the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, which is roughly 1.5 million Km away from the earth’s surface. Lagrange points are the points of equilibrium for small-mass objects involved in a system of two massive orbiting bodies.


The current status and Future of JWST

After launching towards space on 25th December 2021, JWST is all set to reach its destination, the L2 Lagrange point in 29 days. The orbiting gargantuan is provided with enough fuel to last 10 years in orbit in ideal conditions.

JWST's discoveries will provide scientists with a realistic picture of how the universe came to be and how galaxies develop. This will help science find answers to many of the mysteries that have kept humanity up at night.

“Who are we ??”

“Why were we created?”

“How were we created?”



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Tags: #space #science #nasa #JWST #astronomy #esa


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