NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Reaches Final Orbit in Space
The $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope has successfully completed its 30-day deployment by completing its insertion burn at the second Lagrange (L2) point a million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth.
Webb will now stay in a halo orbit around L2 for at least the next ten years, using its infrared detectors to peer deep into the cosmos’ past, to the first stars and galaxies to form after the Big Bang.
The expansion of the universe has stretched the light of stars and galaxies from the earliest days of the universe, the first ever to form after the Big Bang, to the point where the light they emitted more than 13 billion years ago has been pushed out of the visible spectrum by a process known as red-shifting.
This converts visible light into infrared light, which is invisible to ordinary telescopes. Webb’s deep-infrared sensors aspire to do something no other telescope has ever done before: catch that light for the first time.
After Webb’s sensors have had enough time to cool down to -369.4 degrees Fahrenheit/-223 degrees Celsius–which is the temperature cold enough to capture some of the faintest infrared light possible without having to worry about interference from the Sun or even Webb’s own instruments–and its 18 primary mirror segments have been aligned to within 10s of a degree, the first images from Webb are expected in late April at the earliest (though late May is more likely), the first images from
For the time being, NASA and all of the world’s engineers, both government and commercial contractors, are celebrating what is without a doubt one of the greatest engineering feats of all time.
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