Artist rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. Photo: NASA
NASA engineers rejoiced Saturday when the James Webb Space Telescope completed its two-week deployment phase and revealed its last mirror plate.
At the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, engineering teams watched events in space. The telescope will help them study the history of the universe.
our end, Tweet embed! You are fully deployed! 🥳
– NASA (@NASA) January 8, 2022
People from all over the world tuned in to the space telescope as it opened the golden flower-shaped mirror.
“I’m excited about it. What an amazing milestone,” said NASA’s chief engineer and mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen during the live webcast.
“We see this beautiful pattern in the sky now,” Zurbuchen added.
The mirror, dubbed the space telescope’s golden eye, is made of lightweight beryllium. All 18 parts of the mirror are coated with an extremely thin layer of gold that unusually reflects infrared light.
At a cost of $10 billion (Rs 74,300 crore), the James Webb Space Telescope is much more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.
What is the James Webb Space Telescope?
The space telescope’s infrared technology will provide an opportunity to view the oldest stars and galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago. Astronomers hope to glean new insights into the origins of the universe.
The space telescope blasted off on Christmas Day aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana, beginning its one million-mile (1.5 million km) journey into space to its orbit point – one of the Lagrangian points. It’s supposed to get there in a matter of weeks, but nearly half a year of preparation is still required.
The space telescope was too big to be transported as a rocket in its operational form, so it had to collapse, like origami, to fit.
The US space agency said opening the telescope has proven remarkably difficult and may be one of NASA’s most challenging projects.
“We still have work to do,” NASA said as the space telescope’s wing moves into place. “When the last latch is safe, the NASA Webb will open completely into space.”
The space agency’s Telescope Blog said opening the mirrors was “the last major deployment to the observatory.”
What work is required to operate a space telescope?
The final steps of creating the telescope include calibrating the scientific instruments and aligning their optics.
This week, the James Webb Space Telescope also revealed the Sun’s shield, and all five of its layers, in what was considered the most dangerous part of the deployment process.
The 21-meter kite-like canopy will keep scientific instruments in subzero shade so they can pick up infrared signals from the outer reaches of the universe.
The shield will be deployed to protect the space telescope from sunlight, Earth and Moon and can protect it at temperatures up to 110 degrees Celsius.
If all goes according to schedule, scientific observation with the telescope can begin this summer.
This article was first published in DW It is republished here with permission.
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