On your extraordinary flight on Saturday, December 25 at 1:20 p.m., the James Webb Space Telescope took off. The device, jointly created by the US, European and Canadian space agencies, was launched into space by an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. It took about 30 minutes to break free from the rocket and set a course toward orbit 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
The James Webb Space Telescope, a revolutionary instrument by NASA that will peek into the cosmic abyss, begins its mission. At 1.20 p.m. Poland time, the telescope took off. It is the beginning of a new era in space research.
And this machine – according to NASA – helps “reveal the secrets of the universe.” The start of the mission has been moved several times.
26 minutes flying
The equipment, weighing more than 6.3 tons, was launched from the rocket about 30 minutes into the flight.
During the 29-day trip, she’ll reveal her ingredients, including sunscreen, scientific instruments and the mirrors themselves.
The telescope then travels to an orbit about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, nearly four times the distance from the Moon.
Despite the huge financial expenses and efforts, the success of the mission is not guaranteed. According to NASA, deploying the telescope is one of the most technically complex missions in history. This is, among other things, a consequence of the fact that the telescope – in order to fit the rocket – had to be folded like origami.
The entire trip to L2 – one of the places where the gravitational forces between the Sun and Earth are balanced – would take 29 days.
If all goes as planned, the telescope’s special orbital path will keep it in a stable line with Earth, allowing the planet and telescope to orbit the sun in tandem.
By comparison, Webb’s 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbits Earth at a distance of nearly 550 kilometers.
The new telescope, named after the man who oversaw NASA for most of the 1960s, is about 100 times more sensitive than the Hubble telescope. Scientists expect that it will change understanding of the patterns that govern the universe and our place.
Gas, dust and black holes
The James Webb Space Telescope will primarily observe the infrared region. Thanks to this, he will be able to observe the clouds of gas and dust from which stars are born. In addition, scientists will have the opportunity to closely study supermassive black holes located in the centers of distant galaxies.
Webb’s instruments are also perfectly positioned to search for evidence of potentially life-sustaining atmospheres around newly documented exoplanets — celestial bodies that orbit outside the Solar System around other distant stars. Thanks to them, we will take a closer look at interesting objects located a little closer, such as Mars or the icy moon of Saturn – Titan.
The telescope is the result of an international collaboration conducted by NASA in cooperation with the European and Canadian space agencies.
The astronomical operation of the telescope, which is managed by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2022. Earlier, because for a period of six months, the telescope will be prepared and calibrated at the target site.
This is when NASA expects to release the first batch of images captured by Webb. Right now, scientists don’t want to reveal where they intend to point the telescope in the first place. According to the plans, the tool is scheduled to serve for up to 10 years.
Main image source: NASA
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