The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), may not be released on Halloween, October 31, as planned. This powerful “time machine” with which it is hoped to unravel the formation of the universe, will take off between that date and the beginning of December, according to its officials during a press conference organized this Tuesday by the European Space Agency (ESA).
This joint mission led by the POT, in collaboration with the THAT and the canadian CSA, already had its date set for the last day of October, but the margin for maneuver is extended in the event of possible eventualities in the preparation of the instrument itself, its rocket, the Ariane 5, or the facilities of the European spaceport of Kurú ( French Guiana) from where it will take off.
The launch window of the JWST is extended from October 31, the last scheduled date, until the beginning of December, due to possible eventualities in the preparation of the instrument itself, its rocket or the facilities in Kurú
“The James Webb will not be (launched) before October 31 but we have agreed on a launch window that goes until the beginning of December,” he said. Beatriz Romero, responsible for the Arianespace Webb project.
After several previous delays, the launch was scheduled for May in 2020 and then postponed to March of this year, but the launch was further postponed to October due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic and other technical challenges.
In any case, the three space agencies involved are confident that this fall the James Webb will finally be in space, where the gigantic telescope will offer the scientific community its enormous possibilities.
The universe seen like never before
“It will become the center of the entire astrophysical observation program for the next decade or more,” he highlighted at the press conference. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The possibility of clarifying the origin of galaxies and stars includes the promise of changing “not only what we know, but how we think as humans,” added the expert, what an adventure that will be able to teach us the universe “how not we have never seen it ”.
Illustration of the James Webb unraveling the mysteries of the universe. / ESA / ATG medialab
This telescope will become the center of the entire astrophysical observing program for the next decade or more.
Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA)
JWST is designed to “expand on the scientific successes” of the Hubble telescope and complement it. It will be the largest and most powerful that has ever been launched into space and will take a month to reach its orbit, a million and a half kilometers from Earth. Specifically, it will orbit around pLagrange daub L2, an optimal place in the Sun-Earth system where to stabilize and place this type of observatories.
It will offer an unprecedented view of the universe to infrared wavelengths near and mid-infrared and will allow the study of a wide variety of celestial objects, from neighboring galaxies to the far reaches of the more distant universe.
Unprecedented resolution and capabilities
Its primary mirror, in the form of a honeycomb with 18 hexagonal segments, is 6.5 meters high, compared to 2.4 meters in Hubble, and will help to look at what happened about 13.5 billion years ago, 1 billion more than the another telescope.
It is designed to clarify what the universe looked like when its first stars and galaxies formed, to the evolution of black holes or the life cycle of stars, from birth to death.
The resolution of your images will be key. In regions where it is currently known that there are a large number of new stars, the presence of gas and dust makes it difficult to observe them clearly, but with their power it will be “as if that veil had been lifted,” he pointed out. Antonella Note, scientist from ESA’s Webb project.
It will take between two and six months to obtain the first images with all their quality, but as soon as they are available ‘our heads will blow away’
Günther Hasinger (ESA)
It will take between two and six months to obtain the first images with all their quality, but as soon as they are available “our heads will blow”, he stressed Günther Hasinger, Director of Science at ESA, with an enthusiasm shared by all its promoters.
The telescope is 8 meters high and its sunshade, once deployed, the size of a tennis court, so one of the logistical challenges is its installation on a 5.4 meter diameter rocket, folded as if it were origami, according to ESA.
European and Spanish contribution
Europe contributes with the launch service from Kurú aboard an Ariane 5 and with two key scientific tools: the NIRSpec spectrograph and half of MIRI mid-infrared instrument.
The companies Airbus, Crisa and Iberesapacio participate from Spain, as well as the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) and the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC).
Rights: Creative Commons.