Hubble will be small by comparison. In October, the James Webb will be launched. It will go 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in the opposite direction to the Sun. It is made up of 18 hexagons that together form a 6.5-meter mirror. The Webb is the most powerful space telescope in the world. It will be 100 times more powerful than Hubble, which has ever been launched into space.
Looking far away
The telescope will observe the Universe in the near-infrared and mid-infrared. That is, in wavelengths longer than visible light. To do so, it carries a set of state-of-the-art cameras, spectrographs and chronographs. With the data collected, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of space.
The James Webb telescope features “a large 6.5-meter segmented mirror. It will collect almost six times as much light as Hubble.” So says the European Space Agency (ESA). Hubble has a 2.4-meter mirror.
During launch, the spacecraft experiences challenges. There are mechanical forces, vibrations, temperature changes, and electromagnetic radiation. Some elements of Webb are sensitive to solar radiation. What will be done to protect it after launch? The Ariane 5 rocket will perform a roll manoeuvre. It is specially developed to avoid any fixed position of the telescope with respect to the Sun.
The telescope went through successful “center of curvature” test operations. As part of the final tests, the 6.5-meter mirror was ordered to be fully expanded and locked in place, just as it would be in space.
The parasol has a five-layer diamond-shaped structure. It is the size of a tennis court. It was specially designed to fold around the two sides of the telescope. And it fits nicely inside the confines of the Ariane 5 rocket. Fully unfolded, it measures 21 meters by 14 meters. But inside the rocket (17 metres long and 5.4 metres in diameter) it will occupy a very small area.
The sunshield is one of Webb’s most critical and complex components. It was designed to protect the telescope’s optics from any heat source. This prevents it from interfering with your view. The Webb is an infrared telescope. Its mirrors and sensors must be kept at extremely cold temperatures to detect the faint heat signals coming from distant objects in the universe.
There is no doubt that it is the most powerful space telescope in the world. It will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana. When? October 31, 2021. Webb is an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).