At the end of 2018, The James Webb telescope will be launched into space, giving us an open view into a new world, gazing into our past to the origin of galaxies.
After a stunning 20 years of development, a near-death experience, funding issues, and several in priorities, the James Webb telescope will be replacing the aging Hubble Telescope. The Hubble Telescope floats just outside the Earth’s atmosphere, while the James Webb Telescope will be sitting a 1,6 million kilometers away, between the Earth and the Sun. So how does one start a venture like this?
One of Amerika’s least known landmarks, but also one of the most important. When you first take a look at this huge room in the Johnson Space Center in Houston, you won’t remark something special about it. But this chamber of secrets, built in 1965, recreates the (almost) exact conditions from Outer Space, giving the opportunity to test space crafts, telescopes and satellites in space, without even leaving the building.
One of the biggest endeavors recently, was to transfer the mirror of the future James Webb telescope to the Johnson Space Center, to be able to test the circumstances for the mirror to work and withhold the conditions of Space. If you were to break this mirror, you would have other things to worry about, then the seven years of bad sex, I’ll tell you that!
So what makes this telescope so special? The mirror of the telescope exists out of 18 smaller hexagonal mirrors, in a honeycomb shape. It gives seven times more light-collecting capabilities to the telescope, giving it the competence to look much further into space, much further back in time, than the Hubble Telescope.
The James Webb Telescope can also see in Infrared, which can stream through dust that hides older galaxies. So where the Hubble stopped, James Webb begins.
With its unique position into Space, James Webb won’t be affected by other brighter objects in the sky. It will have a sun screen, protecting it for the light of our Sun, moon and other bright stars. It will be able to resist small meteorites, and robots can put the mirrors back into position. And if, knock on wood, one of the mirrors should be broke, the others can compensate for the loss.
That’s a huge advantage, if you go way back to the launch of the Hubble Telescope and images were coming back blurry. It needed a service mission into space to repair for the damage. With the James Webb Telescope, servicing won’t be an option, when it’s floating at 1.6 million kilometers away from Earth.
What will it see?
The James Webb Telescope will not only see first light, it will also be able to pick up on the first primal galaxies taking shape, the first planets developing around stars and perhaps, even signs of early biological developments on alien planets.
Will it see an alien, bathing in the sun, working on his green tan, while sipping a mojito? Perhaps not. But it will surely reveal some secrets, the universe hides from us.
The question is … are we ready for it?