James Webb Telescope Completes Rigorous Tests.
The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) is a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. The telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in October of 2018. JWST will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of Solar System capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System. Formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST), it was renamed in September 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb. JWST is an international collaboration between NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman, and the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate JWST after launch. Several innovative technologies have been developed for JWST, including a primary mirror made of 18 separate segments that unfold and adjust to shape after launch. The mirrors are made of ultra-lightweight beryllium. JWST’s biggest feature is a tennis court sized five-layer sunshield that attenuates heat from the Sun more than a million times. The telescope’s four instruments – cameras and spectrometers – have detectors that are able to record extremely faint signals. One instrument, the NIRSpec (the Near Infrared Spectrograph), has programmable microshutters, which enable observation up to 100 objects simultaneously. JWST also has a cryocooler for cooling the MIRI or mid-infrared instrument detectors, to a very cold 7 kelvins (minus 447 Fahrenheit) so they can work. Credit: NASA.
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