The 101 to the amazing James Webb Space Telescope

-written by Ritika Pandey, reviewed by Muskan Agarwal

The most awaited James Webb Space Telescope has finally been launched after many delays. The entire world has great hopes and expectations from this mission. The 10 billion dollar telescope was built and launched by NASA by collaborating with the European Union and Canada’s official space agency. Here are some facts that you may not know about the most awaited JWST launch.

james webb space telescope

The mission of the James Webb space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope has the following four goals from this mission:

  1. To look for the light from the first-ever galaxies and stars that were formed in our universe post The Big Bang.
  2. To analyze the formations and the evolution of the galaxies.
  3. To discover the formation of stars from the initial stages to the creation of the planetary systems.
  4. To evaluate the chemical and the physical properties of the planetary systems, and to explore the possibility of life in those planetary systems. 

The distance between Earth and the JWST is huge

Being the successor of the Hubble telescope doesn’t mean that the James Webb space telescope would be any similar to the old mission. The JWST telescope is supposed to travel millions of kilometers away from our planet Earth, whereas the Hubble telescope was only 547 kilometers away from our home planet. The distance that the JWST will travel can be said to be approximately equal to four times the distance between the Moon and the planet Earth.

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This is where the biggest issue with the James Webb Space Telescope lies. If something similar to the Hubble telescope happens with the JWST the distance will make it impossible to repair it, especially with JWST covering a huge distance in mere 50 days of its launch. So the chances of the JWST working are 50-50. Let’s hope the chances turn out to be in a positive direction. 

The sunshield of the JWST

Guess what else is new in the James Webb Space Telescope? It is incorporated with a sun-shield. This sun-shield is supposed to get extended out once the telescope is launched and will unfold a material that is a large sheet coated with metal. This sheet was created to guard the main optics against the light and heat of the Sun so that the telescope can function comfortably while detecting the faint light incoming from the remote galaxies and stars. This sun-shield is designed in such a way that it incorporates several layers and a mechanism that helps it in deployment. This deployment mechanism also comprises a trim flap. 

The golden sunflower mirror

The James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror is made up of 18 hexagonal segments and is manufactured from beryllium as it is a very strong material but is lightweight at the same time. Every single one of the 18 hexagonal segments is 1.32 m in diameter and is lined with a super thin layer of gold as it makes it easier for the mirror to reflect infrared light. All of these have been stitched together to form a honeycomb pattern. Once the mirror is opened the structure has a total diameter of 6.5 m. It is very impressive especially considering that the total diameter of the Hubble telescope was 2.4 m. 

The gold layer coated onto the mirrors of the James Webb Space Telescope was applied using a technique which is called the vacuum vapor deposition technique. In this technique, the mirrors are kept within a vacuum chamber, a small amount of gold is vaporized and released into this chamber which then gets settled down on the mirrors forming a thin coating of gold. The thickness of the mirrors used in the James Webb Space Telescope has a thickness of 100 nanometers so just a small amount that is less than 50 g of gold was used to coat the whole mirror. 

The coldest telescope of all time so far

Unlike the Hubble telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope will be collecting the images in infrared, which will help in disclosing more secrets of our universe and viewing the images in a form that they never have been. We know that infrared means heat, so this means that the JWST has to be extremely cold, as no one wants it to glow any brighter as it most definitely would interfere with the incoming faint heat signals. 

A glance back in time

Yeah you read it right, the James Webb Space Telescope will not only be an asset for the future, but it will also reveal the secrets from the past. The astronomers are hoping that the telescope will be a tool to help them understand the first ever created galaxies and stars in our universe. Which in turn will help us to unravel the secrets of the universe. All the images the JWST will capture will help in understating the universe’s history and not just the galactic systems. 

The scientists believe that the JWST will be able to give them a peak within galaxies that were formed 400 million years after the Big Bang. This is believed to take us even closer to the beginning of our universe. 

The JWST will be looking for the building blocks of life on the alien planets

Despite being the successor of the Hubble telescope the James Webb Space Telescope is not going to focus on the discovery of any new exoplanets. Instead, the mission’s focus is going to study the already discovered exoplanets that astronomers reckon could be similar to our planet Earth. The JWST is going to collect and analyze the light visible from the exoplanets in their atmosphere as they rotate around their stars. Scientists believe that this light will be able to give us information about the chemicals within the said exoplanet, with the hit-list counting methane, water, and carbon dioxide.

Is there something interesting about the James Webb Space Telescope that you think we missed? Then make sure to comment it down below! 

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1 Comment

  • Dakota
    Posted July 29, 2022 9:12 am 0Likes

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