Home LATEST NEWS James Webb Telescope Shield Continues Deployment After Two Problems

James Webb Telescope Shield Continues Deployment After Two Problems

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The James Webb Space Telescope’s heat shield, the size of a tennis court, is now fully open and is being strained. The operation is expected to be completed by Wednesday.

The $ 10 billion telescope, which is the largest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever launched, flew on December 25 from French Guiana. Its heat shield and main mirror had to be folded up to enter the European Ariane rocket.

The heat shield is essential for keeping infrared sensing instruments at sub-zero temperatures, which scan the universe for the first stars and galaxies.

The extension of the heat shield last Friday was a great success for us, said project manager Bill Ochs. All 107 actuators opened correctly.

But there were some obstacles.

Maryland flight controllers had to reset the solar panel to absorb more energy. The observatory – considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope – has never been in danger, since it has received a constant flow of energy, explained engineer Amy Lo, who works for Northrop Grumman, the principal telescope subcontractor.

They also reoriented the telescope to limit sunlight reaching six overheating engines. Those engines have cooled down enough to begin deploying the shield, a three-day process that can be halted if the problem recurs, officials said.

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Everything is back to normal and is going well, Ms. Lo said.

Project manager Ochs expects the rest of the tensioning to go smoothly.

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If so, the telescope’s gold-plated mirror, which measures more than 6.5 meters in diameter, could deploy as early as this weekend.

Webb is expected to reach his destination, 1.6 million kilometers from Earth, by the end of January. As of Monday, the telescope was more than halfway through.

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The telescope uses a detector that guides it with extreme precision and a slitless imager and spectrograph in the near infrared, an instrument that will allow astronomers to observe distant galaxies and study the atmosphere of exoplanets.

Both of these instruments were designed and built in Canada.

In return for its contribution to the telescope, Canada is guaranteed to have at least five percent of the telescope’s observation time, once the data begins to arrive.

The infrared telescope is expected to begin observing the cosmos at the end of June, eventually revealing the first stars and galaxies formed in the universe 13.7 billion years ago. It was barely 100 million years after the Big Bang that created the universe.

Launched in 1990, Hubble, which mainly sees visible light, has been traced back as far as 13.4 billion years. Astronomers hope to fill this gap with Webb, which is 100 times more powerful.

In more good news, on Monday, officials said they expect Webb to last much longer than the 10 years originally planned, given its energy efficiency.

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