James Webb Space Telescope: Hubble Successor to Launch Before Christmas | BR.de

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is designed to explore the early days of the universe. The infrared telescope is considered to be the successor to the Hubble space telescope, which is currently orbiting the earth. After many years of delay, the space telescope should originally have launched on October 31, 2021 on board a European Ariane rocket. But again there are delays: According to the current status of the preparations, the space telescope is expected to take off on December 22, 2021, originally it should take off on December 18. start. According to NASA information a safety strap loosened when installing the telescope and caused vibrations. Now the James Webb telescope should be checked again before it is sent off.

James Webb telescope had been planned for a very long time

Working on the James Webb Space Telescope, 2017 |  Image: picture alliance / AP Photos

Material problems, technical problems, lack of control: the James Webb Space Telescope is becoming more and more expensive for NASA.

The JWST project, conceived in the 1990s, was originally planned for 2002. Then the beginning was postponed again and again. In 2018, the space agency NASA finally announced that it needed more time to assemble the giant telescope. The originally planned costs have long since increased many times over. The Space Webb telescope is now a joint project of the US, European and Canadian space agencies (NASA, ESA and CSA).

Space telescope with a 25 square meter mirror

Checking the James Webb telescope in the clean room |  Image: NASA / Chris Gunn

The main mirror of the James Webb telescope during tests in the assembly hall.

The mission is initially designed for five years. The space organizations involved – the US American NASA, the European ESA and the Canadian CSA – plan to use the James Webb telescope to explore space for ten years.

One of the most important parts of the telescope is the primary mirror. It consists of 18 segments that only unfold in space. Together they have a diameter of 6.5 meters and an area of ​​around 25 square meters.

At the long-range point L2 – on the side of the earth facing away from the sun

Lagrange points – what is it?

The points named after Joseph-Louis Lagrange are five places in a system of two celestial bodies – for example the earth and the sun – at which a gravitational equilibrium occurs and an object holds itself without propulsion. A moon or satellite at one of the five points orbits the sun with the earth, on the same orbit. The Lagrange points L1 and L2 lie on the connecting line earth-sun, close to earth as a body with less mass. L3 is on the opposite side of the sun, L4 and L5 “run” ahead and behind the earth in their orbit.

So that the heat of the sun’s rays does not disturb the temperature-sensitive sensors of the telescope, it is deposited on the side of the earth facing away from the sun, around 1.5 million kilometers away at Lagrange point L2 – around four times further than the moon. James Webb is always the same distance from earth, but does not orbit around it, but with it around the sun, always on our night side. Here the space telescope should be able to work free of interference and forces.

James Webb searches for the beginnings of the universe

James Webb Space Telescope (illustration) |  Image: NASA

James Webb-Teleskop im All (Illustration)

When the James Webb Space Telescope has reached its destination in space, the search for the light of the first stars and galaxies after the Big Bang will begin. James Webb will primarily “look around” in the infrared range of light and will search for galaxies and bright objects that arose in the early days of the universe. The space telescope will also explore how stars and planets are formed and, in particular, focus on protoplanetary disks around suns.

The scientific tasks of the James Webb Space Telescope

  • Search for the light of the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang.
  • Find out how galaxies evolved from their formation to the present day.
  • Observe how stars are formed, starting with the first stages of the formation of planetary systems.
  • Measuring the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems and researching whether life is possible there.

Webb delivers images from the depths of space

The James Webb Space Telescope is relatively close to Earth, so NASA can expect a high data transfer rate. The telescope will primarily collect data in the infrared range, but it will also take images in the visible light spectrum. Its sensors are more sensitive than those of the Hubble space telescope and with its huge mirror it can collect up to ten times more light. This is why the JWST will look further into the universe’s past than Hubble ever could.

James Webb-Telescope

  • NIRCam (Near Infrared Camera): The infrared camera is the telescope’s most important image supplier. Among other things, the instrument should record the light of the first stars after the Big Bang.
  • MIRI (Mid Infrared Instrument): Combination of camera and spectrograph for wavelengths in the infrared range. This should make it possible to take spectacular shots like those of Hubble.
  • NIRSpec (Near Infrared Spectograph): The “super eye” of the telescope was developed on behalf of ESA in Ottobrunn and Friedrichshafen. It can analyze the weakest radiation from the first galaxies and record up to 100 celestial bodies such as galaxies or stars at the same time.
  • FGS / NIRISS (Fine Guidance Sensor / Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph): This instrument is used for the precise alignment of the telescope.


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