The James Webb space telescope has a huge task at hand – to replace Hubble which has been serving as our eye in the sky for decades. The first image released by the new telescope on Monday did not disappoint. It showed the clearest image to date of the early universe, going back 13 billion years. American space agency NASA, which launched the telescope in space in December last year, has promised it will help scientists understand the deep space better.
Here are the 5 points on James Webb Telescope:
- The cost of building Hubble’s successor is estimated to be $10 billion, making it one of the most expensive scientific platforms ever built, comparable to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. With James Webb, NASA hopes to take a peek inside the “dark ages” that gripped the Universe before the first stars ignited.
- The new telescope has two goals – to take the pictures of the very first stars to shine in the Universe more than 13.5 billion years ago, and to find out if any other plane is habitable like the Earth.
- Webb is orbiting the Sun at a distance of 1.6 million kilometres from Earth, in a region of space called the second Lagrange point. Here, will it remain in a fixed position relative to the Earth and Sun, with minimal fuel required for course corrections.
- The new telescope’s primary mirror is over 21 feet wide and comprises of 18 gold-coated mirror segments and super-sensitive infrared instruments. Charlie Atkinson, chief engineer on the James Webb Space Telescope program, told news agency AFP that it wobbles no more than 17 millionths of a millimetre.
- NASA estimates the James Webb space telescope has enough propellant for a 20-year life.