After years of delay, the James Webb Space Telescope will be launched this Friday, December 24, from Kourou, French Guiana.
It is the successor to the Hubble telescope, but. much more powerful and capable of seeing in the infrared range.
The James Webb Space Telescope is NASA’s next flagship telescope. It is the result of a collaboration between NASA and the European and Canadian space agencies. It will cover a wide range of scientific topics, but above all it will detect the first galaxies in the universe and define the atmospheres of exoplanets around other stars.
The telescope is so large that it will not fit on the rocket, so it has to fold in on itself. It has a giant gold-coated primary mirror, 6.4 meters in diameter. It doesn’t fit in the rocket, so it has these two side lobes, like ears, that fold back.
It has taken 20 years of development and nearly 10 billion euros to build this extraordinary instrument. Its centerpiece is a huge mirror protected by a sunshield the size of a tennis court. It will be launched by an Ariane 5 rocket.
The deployment of the telescope in space will be one of enormous risk because unlike Hubble, which is 600 km from Earth, the James Webb will not be repairable. Inaccessible, it will orbit the sun 1.5 million kilometers from our planet.