NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the most powerful telescope to date. Let’s find out what this $10 billion telescope will reveal –
The Webb Space Telescope will travel 1 million miles in space to study the universe. This will provide clear information about the universe as it was 13.6 billion years ago. The telescope will give precise information about other galaxies, black holes, and foreign particles of the universe.
Webb will use Quasars to find out the secrets of the universe and primary conditions as well. Quasars are very bright, distant, and active supermassive black holes. These are located at the centers of galaxies in the universe. They engulfed infalling objects and reveal radiations.
After the launch of Webb, later this year, a team of NASA scientists will train Webb on six of the most distant and brightest quasars. This will reveal information about these quasars, their host galaxies, and the relation of these at the early stage of evolution.
The team will also examine the gas in the space of cosmic reionization when the universe was very young. Thus Webb will provide valuable information about the early universe and its evolutionary processes.
You see, since the beginning of the universe, it is expanding as well as the light emitted from it. While the expansion of light it turns out to be infrared and still traveling in space. The telescope will pick that up and analyze its spectroscopy. Thus its initial information will be determined.
If the telescope was placed on earth and focused on the moon, it could clearly detect bumble bee-sized objects on the moon. Therefore, placing the telescope in space will let us know more about other planets and stars. Scientists are expecting to discover some other places of the universe where there are life forms. This is a big step for earth dwellers.
The Webb Space Telescope is around six tonnes in weight. It is 10.5m long and 4.5m in width when remains folded. This folded telescope is kept inside a dust-free chamber. The entire chamber will be placed at the top of the rocket to avoid dust or any other harmful particles. The telescope will form a diamond shape upon deployment. There are 18 Primary mirrors and 126 actuators to control each of them.
With the preparations for Webb, Ariane 5 rocket is under final preparation as well. This European highly-reliable heavy-lifting rocket has an impressive record of launching more than 100 times over the last three decades. Ariane 5 has a dimension of 17m in length and 5.4m in diameter.
Breakdown of the Journey
With the liftoff, Webb’s 29 days journey starts. After 206 seconds of launch, the carrier and telescope will be at an altitude of 75 miles above the atmosphere. Ground teams will be able to establish communication with the telescope shortly after. In the next 28 mins, the complex deployment sequence will initiate.
– Extension of Solar Array
After 31 to 33 mins of liftoff, the telescope will stop draining the 2 kilowatts battery to work with electrical systems and avionics. To enable a high data transmission rate via NASA’s Deep Space Network, the medium and high-gain antenna is deployed two hours later.
After 12 hours and 30 mins of the launch, Webb will use its thrusters to perform course correction. This will lead Webb towards its destination. After two and a half days of launch, The observatory will pass the moon and move forward.
– Extension of Sunshield
Unitized Pallet Structure is the sunshield frame of the Webb Space Telescope. The shield will fold down after three days from the liftoff. At this point, the observatory will continue to expand. All major deployments will begin then. Within five hours both front and back pallets will fold down as instructed.
After four days of liftoff, the deployable tower will start to extend. This will separate the telescope mirrors and other instruments from the spacecraft. This separation will allow Webb to deploy the primary mirror freely. From that point, Webb is independent of its actions.
– Sunshield Membrane Deployments
After 5 days of launch, the Sunshield membrane will start to deploy. This will cover the sunshield when the ascent is out of the way. Then a very critical operation will take place. 107 sunshield release mechanisms or special pins will unlock respectively. There are five layers of sunshield attached together. After the pins are unlocked, two wings, mid-booms, will start to extend to pull each of the sunshield layers.
A day later, the diamond structure is formed. Each of the layers is attached and separated using special motorized pulley systems. Sunshield deployments and tensioning will end between the 8th or 9th day after the liftoff.
– Webb’s Optics
Telescope deployment starts soon after that. The deployment initiates with unfolding and latching into place the tripod. The tripod holds the secondary mirror as well. On the 10th day, the secondary mirror gets into position.
On the 12th day, primary mirrors will get in their positions. There are 18 primary mirrors in this telescope. This deployment will take three hours. On the 13th day, this huge deployment will come to an end.
– Final positioning
After that, a 10-day, the process will begin to move the primary mirror segments to latched at their final positions. This will continue till the 25th day. There are 126 precise actuators to control the position of the mirrors. Fine-tuning begins shortly after that.
On the 29th day, Webb will use its thrusters once more. This will push the telescope to its orbit at the second Lagrange, L2. That is nearly 1 million miles away from the Earth. In this way, the deployment will be completed.
The Launch Schedule
After getting confirmation from the engineers’ team, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is ready for its journey. Launch preparations are going on. The Webb’s launch will initiate on Dec. 22, Wednesday, 7.20 a.m. EST. provided everything goes as planned. NASA will come live with the launch on their YouTube channel.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is a very critical project. The telescope will reveal unique information about the universe. The universe is vast and how much do we know about it now? Stay tuned for more James Webb Space Telescope update.