NASA successfully launches groundbreaking space telescope to seek answers about the origin of the universe

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, built to give the world its first glimpse of the universe as it existed when the first galaxies formed, was launched by rocket early Saturday from the northeast coast of South America, opening a new era of astronomy.

The groundbreaking $9 billion infrared telescope, described by NASA as the premier space science observatory of the next decade, was carried inside the cargo bay of an Ariane 5 rocket that lifted off around 7:20 a.m. EST (1220 GMT) from the European Space Agency (ESA) Launch Base in French Guiana.

The flawless Christmas Day launch, complete with a countdown in French, was streamed live on a joint NASA-ESA webcast. Liftoff capped a decades-long project, which came to fruition after years of repeated delays and cost overruns.

“From a tropical rainforest to the edge of time itself, James Webb embarks on a journey toward the birth of the universe,” a NASA commentator said as the two-stage launch vehicle, fitted with twin thrusters solid rocket, taking off from its launch pad in a cloudy sky.

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After a 27-minute hypersonic journey through space, the 14,000-pound instrument was released from the upper stage of the French-built rocket some 865 miles above Earth, and is expected to gradually roll out to ‘to almost the size of a tennis court over the next 13 days as it sails on its own.

Live video captured by a camera mounted on the rocket’s upper stage showed the Webb gently gliding after being jettisoned, drawing cheers and applause from jubilant flight engineers in mission control.

Flight controllers confirmed moments later, as the Webb’s solar power array was deployed, that its power supply was working.

Traversing space for two more weeks, the Webb Telescope will reach its destination in solar orbit 1 million kilometers from Earth – about four times farther than the moon. And Webb’s special orbital path will keep it in constant alignment with Earth as the planet and telescope orbit the sun in tandem.

By comparison, Webb’s 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbits Earth 340 miles away, moving in and out of the planet’s shadow every 90 minutes.
Named after the man who oversaw NASA for most of its formative decade in the 1960s, Webb is around 100 years old.

times more sensitive than Hubble and is expected to transform scientists’ understanding of the universe and our place in it.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, striking a witty tone as he addressed the launch webcast via video link, quoted the Bible and hailed the new telescope as a ‘time machine’ who “will capture the light from the very beginning of creation”.

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Webb will primarily see the cosmos in the infrared spectrum, allowing it to peer through the clouds of gas and dust where stars are born, while Hubble operated primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.

The new telescope’s main mirror – made up of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal – also has a much larger light-gathering area, allowing it to observe objects at greater distances, so farther into the world. time, than Hubble or any other telescope.

According to astronomers, it will bring a glimpse of the cosmos never seen before – dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that sparked the expansion of the observable universe around 13 years ago. 8 billion years.

Hubble’s vision dates back to around 400 million years after the Big Bang, a time just after the very first galaxies – sprawling clusters of stars, gas and other interstellar material – would have taken shape.

While Hubble has captured glows from “toddler” galaxies, Webb will reveal these objects in greater detail while capturing even fainter “infant” galaxies, astrophysicist Eric Smith, a scientist with the Webb program at the University, told Reuters. NASA, a few hours before launch.

In addition to examining the formation of the first stars and galaxies, astronomers are eager to study the supermassive black holes believed to occupy the centers of distant galaxies.

Webb’s instruments also make it ideal for searching for evidence of potentially vital atmospheres around dozens of newly documented exoplanets – celestial bodies orbiting distant stars – and for observing worlds much closer to home, such as than Mars and Titan, the icy moon of Saturn.

The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with European and Canadian space agencies. Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) was the prime contractor. The Arianespace launcher is part of the European contribution.

“The world gave us this telescope, and we gave it back to the world today,” Gregory Robinson, Webb program manager for NASA, told reporters during a post-launch briefing.

Webb was developed at a cost of $8.8 billion, with operational expenses expected to bring its total price to around $9.66 billion, much higher than expected when NASA was previously aiming for a 2011 launch. Read the following
Astronomical operation of the telescope, which will be managed from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2022, after about six months of alignment and calibration of Webb’s mirrors and instruments.

That’s when NASA plans to release the first batch of images captured by Webb. Webb is designed to last up to 10 years.

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