Updated: Aug 3
The Webb telescope mostly picks up infrared light so that it can look at things like the first galaxies and protostars that give off light at those wavelengths. Infrared satellite observatories have a sun shield that covers about 150 square meters to protect them from thermal radiation (1,600 square feet).
Since no rocket is wide enough to hold the JWST when it is fully open, the sun shield and the mirror were folded and sent into space. Here is everything you need to know about what the telescope is, what it does, and why it was made.
Overview of the James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Telescope (JWST) is an infrared observatory in orbit. It was launched as part of a multinational effort by NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA) to expand upon and supplement the discoveries made by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Engineers and technicians fold and pack the JWST’s sunshield. (Image credit: NASA)
The telescope looks at the world at infrared wavelengths. This increases its field of view and enables it to see the earliest stars and galaxies to develop after the Big Bang. We are also able to see planetary systems and stars that are growing inside of dust clouds that we would not otherwise be able to detect thanks to infrared light.
With the use of the telescope, researchers will search for the earliest galaxies to develop after the universe was created and examine how they evolved through time. The James Webb Telescope probably had a role in the magnificent images of space that you've lately seen.
When Did the Webb Telescope go to Space?
The Webb telescope was launched into space on December 25, 2021, from a spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana. This is where the ELA-3 launch complex for Arianespace is. An Ariane 5 rocket took the Webb telescope into space. The European Space Agency helped with the mission by giving both the rocket and the place where it would be launched. After it was launched, it took the telescope 29 days and a million miles to get to the second Lagrange point.
How Much Does the Telescope Cost?
Reports say that the James Webb telescope was a very expensive project that was expected to cost NASA $9.7 billion over 24 years. The spacecraft cost about $8.8 billion to make, and it will cost another $861 million to keep it running for five years.
How Does the Webb Telescope Take a Picture?
The Webb's main camera is the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). The NIRCam can see light from very old stars and galaxies. Both the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin worked together to make the NIRCam.
How do I See Pictures Taken by the Webb Telescope?
The latest news is always posted on NASA's website in the form of press releases. But the best way to find out what's going on with Webb is to follow the telescope's own Twitter account.
This is one portion of a composite James Webb Space Telescope view of the Pillars of Creation. (Image credit: NASA/ESA/CSA)
How Does the Webb Telescope Work?
The Webb telescope was made by NASA, the ESA, and the CSA working together. NASA is in charge of the Webb mission as a whole. NASA says that the Near Infrared Spectrograph, the Mid-Infrared Instrument Optics Assembly, and the Ariane Launch Vehicle are all made by ESA. Last but not least, the Fine Guidance Sensor/Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph came from CSA.
When Did the First Picture Taken by the Webb Telescope Revealed?
In July 2022, the Webb telescope sent back its first picture. On July 11, 2022, at a White House event, President Joe Biden showed the first picture taken by the telescope. At the time, it was the most detailed infrared picture of the universe ever taken. The picture showed how the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 looked 4.6 billion years ago. Later that week, the whole set of color images was shared, and they were beautiful.
What is the James Webb Space Telescope's Size?
The JWST is the biggest telescope ever made. Its huge sun shield base is 22 meters by 12 meters, which is about the size of a tennis court. Hubble is only 13 meters long, but the JWST is only 6,500 kg, which is almost half of what Hubble is.
The gold-plated mirrors on the JWST are much bigger than Hubble's plate, which is only 2.4m in diameter. In general, the JWST will be able to see about 15 times more than Hubble.
Where the James Webb Space Telescope Flew?
After being sent into space, the JWST will circle the Sun at a distance of up to 1.5 million km from Earth, where temperatures can reach -223°C. The Hubble Space Telescope is only 570 kilometers above Earth, while the Moon is 384,400 kilometers away. Since the JWST will be so far from Earth, if something goes wrong, astronauts won't be able to fix it.
Artist’s impression of the James Webb Space Telescope folded and stowed inside its Ariane 5 rocket. (Image credit: ESA/D. Ducros)
What is the James Webb Space Telescope's Purpose?
Since NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) worked together to make the JWST, it has many mission goals.
What JWST is Looking For:
Look at the first light in the universe and the objects in space that emerged very soon after the Big Bang;
Find out how galaxies come into being and evolve;
Learn more about the atmospheres of faraway planetary systems;
Take pictures of the planets that are in our solar system;
Find proof that dark matter exists.
After its launch, the JWST will likely work for five years. NASA hopes that the observatory will last longer than 10 years, though.
The observatory won't be able to work forever, though. Even though it is mostly powered by the sun, the JWST needs a small amount of fuel to keep its orbit and instruments working.