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  • Matthew Spencer - Tech Journalist

The James Webb Space Telescope launched and finally unfurled the massive sun shield

25th December of 2021 was one of the massive milestones for humanity as after years of planning, building the most powerful space telescope, the James Webb finally launched into space successfully. The telescope is almost the size of a tennis court when unfurled with compact features.

Approximately 6200 kg of payload, including overstory, on-orbit consumables and launch vehicle adaptor, is a fascinating project taken by NASA scientists. Of course, space science has been developed for centuries in global cosmology, so it is the combined effort of every bit of scientific knowledge at our disposal.

We can't emphasise enough the massive work gone into the development and the discoveries we'd make with the help of James Webb. Previously, astronomers gathered data and applied their mathematical theories of science and space to new equations. This time, we'd have a more hands-on approach. Astronomers, physicists, scientists can apply for case studies using the power of James Webb to document and fill research needs.

The massive space telescope is docked far beyond the capacity of repairing if anything goes wrong. It carries 100 times the observational power of Hubble and will look at everything in infrared. In the RGB colour palette, red is the most powerful, meaning it has smaller wavelengths and can go far beyond red and green alternatives. Due to James Webb's sensitivity to light, it is placed in the shadows of Earth, shielding it from Sun's direct light.

According to Motherboard's new episode of 'Space Show,' the building of James Webb involved over 1200 people and another 3,000 spreading across 450 different institutions in 40 countries.

Within the first five months of launch, the telescope will spend all its time communicating with the control centre and calibrating its sensors and mirrors. There are a lot of honeycomb shape mirrors to reflect the lowest length of light to the telescope sensor. It is three times bigger than the reflectors of Hubble.

The $10 billion project has a five-layer structure sequentially deploying two booms. The biggest problem with a telescope this size was deployment. So, after years of crafting cutting edge science projects, it had to be a foldable one to fit inside a rocket. And yes, that was the biggest hurdle besides its funding. Another limitation is that there are only calibration options; if any hardware damage occurs on the telescope, there is no way to fix it.

The open-source science model will give scientists time for operations with the telescope. We can't wait to see fascinating discoveries made with James Webb.

As the telescope will work with infrared light, it needs constant cooling. The Sun was the biggest obstacle between reaching the telescope's potential. So massive sun shields have been implemented in the telescope to keep it cool. Multi-layered sun shields are made of premium materials and a thin coating of gold, as it is excellent reflector. Also, the honeycomb-shaped mirrors have gold, giving the whole telescope a golden accent in its build.

With 100 times more observational power, JWST will look for different galaxies emitting the tiniest portion of light. According to NASA, JWST "will peer more than 13.5 billion years back into the cosmic history to a time when the first luminous objects were evolving."

The unfurling of the sun shield is a colossal mission itself and is taking JWST members continuous effort. Once the unfurling is complete, the secondary mirror and 21.3 foot wide (6.5m) primary mirror will deploy. It is expected to be finished within 7th January. And later will come to a month-long calibration process.

It is a history in the making, and we hope to cover fascinating news regarding space with our readers.


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