James Webb Space Telescope

December 20, 2021 • 11:30 am

On Wednesday, as the 13-minute “60 Minutes” segment below explains, the $10-billion-dollar James Webb Space Telescope will be launched.  Thirty days later, it will be nearly a million miles from Earth, in orbit around the Sun.

One of its goals is to detect leftover radiation traveling over billions of light years, giving us a glimpse of the past and, perhaps, into what “dark matter” is.  But, as you’ll see, it can also answer many other questions.

If you want to read more than you’ve absorbed from this segment, go to either the Wikipedia page or on the telescope’s NASA site.

I’m continuslly stunned by what humans can do with simple materials extracted from the Earth. And it’s great that this effort involves international cooperation.

h/t: Nicole

20 thoughts on “James Webb Space Telescope

  1. Minor quibble – it will be at the Lagrangian Point L2. That’s a point which is gravitationally stable, influenced by the Sun and the Earth. It’ll stay about 1M miles from the Earth in the direction away from the Sun. So it’s not in a conventional orbit around the Sun.

    1. More quibbling: The telescope will actually be in a halo orbit about the L2 point. At the L2 point the sun’s light is mostly blocked by the Earth and the orbit allows the telescope’s solar panels to absorb sunlight.

      1. Also, the L2 point is not gravitationally stable but is quasi-stable with a halo orbit. Minor occasional corrections are required.

  2. I’m very worried about the deployment of the JWST. Even if the launch itself goes well, there are hundreds or thousands (couldn’t find the number) of separate deployment steps. The fact that there have recently been two small problems that have each delayed the launch is not very auspicious.

  3. C’mon, Paul, all that’s needed is 20,000 or so people working for 30 years or so, not one of them ever making even the tiniest mistake. (Humour in my pathetic manner, in case somebody misinterprets!)

    But somehow I’ve convinced myself that this is going to be a spectacular success.

    One thing for sure: this time there’s no sending an astronaut out there to strap a pair spectacles onto it, something like that having turned Hubble from a debacle into a huge success.

    1. “But somehow I’ve convinced myself that this is going to be a spectacular success” – certainly a spectacle-less one given your comment about the Hubble repair job!

      Fingers firmly crossed – there’s so much that can go wrong. That said, the success rate for these incredibly complex missions is remarkable.

      1. Really hope this all comes together – as you say, a spectacular success…. . Wish I believed in prayer at a time like this. So much to be studied out there.

  4. Launch just got delayed again! This time for weather. The new targeted launch date is Dec. 25, as early as possible within the following launch window: Between 07:20 a.m. and 07:52 a.m. Eastern time.

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