NASA fully deploys James Webb Space Telescope after opening its giant gold-coated mirror

The James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex of its kind, successfully completed its final deployment stage by opening its 21-foot gold-coated, flower-shaped mirror.

A joint effort with ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency, the Webb Observatory is NASA’s flagship mission to search for “light from the first galaxies.” Named after former NASA administrator James E. Webb, who oversaw the agency from 1961 to 1968, the Webb telescope is about 100 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope.

The $9.7-billion space telescope has been under development for decades. The long-awaited telescope will catch the first lights of the universe, assembly of galaxies in the early universe, the birth of Stars in the pre-universe, and many more.

“Webb is designed to peer back over 13.5 billion years to capture infrared light from celestial objects, with much higher resolution than ever before, and to study our own solar system as well as distant worlds,” NASA said in a press release.

To accomplish that, scientists outfitted the telescope with the golden mirrors, 6.5 meters wide made up of 18 hexagonal gold-coated beryllium segments that can be adjusted individually.

Webb’s tennis court-sized sun-shield is made up of a material called Kapton, and layer coated with aluminum in order to refrigerate the system and block the sun’s intervening bright light, so that the faint and distant infrared light could be captured by the telescope. Webb is so large that it had to be folded up to fit into the Ariane 5 rocket. 

“The successful completion of all of the Webb Space Telescope’s deployments is historic,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb program director at NASA headquarters.

“This is the first time a NASA-led mission has ever attempted to complete a complex sequence to unfold an observatory in space — a remarkable feat for our team, NASA, and the world,” Robinson added.




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