The new James Webb Telescope is Ready to Travel a Million Miles: NASA

The sunshield in its new James Webb Telescope to travel a million miles, claims NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is expected to launch its new telescope, The James Webb Space Telescope, on 31st October, 2021. It will comprise of a five-layer huge sunshield that will protect the telescope’s optical equipment from heat and damage

The sunshield inside the telescope is so big that appropriate engineering is required to put the whole thing inside the launch rocket, Ariane 5. The  deployment tests were completed in December last year.

Unfolding of the sunshield

The 70 feet by 47 feet diamond shaped sunshield is set to unfold itself after a week of leaving Earth, and travelling almost 1.5 million kilometres (1 million miles). The main purpose of the sunshield is to protect the optics of the telescope from excessive heat and high temperature. The outer layer of the sunshield will measure almost a boiling 110 degrees Celsius, while the coldest part of the same sunscreen, facing the empty space, will measure -237 degrees Celsius.

The James Webb VS Hubble Space Telescope

The James Webb Telescope is a joint NASA-ESA-CSA space telescope, and is named after James Edwin Webb, an administrator in NASA from 1961 to 1968. With the upcoming retirement of the Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990, the JWST is set to replace its job, looking for and solving mysteries pf the solar system and beyond. It consists of a primary mirror of 18 hexagonal segments made of gold-plated beryllium, making the mirror diameter almost thrice as big as Hubble’s, though having half the mass.

JWST mirror

The James Webb Space Telescope was initially set to launch in 2007, but due to various circumstances, it was delayed. The project went a sea-change in design in 2005, and is now set to launch this year. It will use low frequency range light to observe high redshift objects.

The telescope is set to operate near Earth-Sun Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth’s orbit. This makes it practically inaccessible once launched, and the telescope cannot undergo any repairs following its voyage. Hence, the engineers and extra cautious about everything, as the project has had a huge history of cost overruns.

Final Words

The launch site for the telescope will be French Guiana, South America. There will be a final mirror deployment before its launch. The packed sunshield will undergo a process of securing for the next three months. There are 107 pin-like devices to help it unfold automatically once in space. The first layer measures two-thousandths of an inch in thickness, while the other four layers measure one-thousandth of an inch.

The telescope will be a game-changer in astronomy as the Hubble Telescope nears its retirement. The JWST is set to observe the space with a different light and uncover secrets previously unnoticed.

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