Nasa said Monday that the James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at its cosmic parking space a million miles distant, bringing it one step closer to its objective of unraveling the mysteries of the Universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope fired its rocket thrusters for about five minutes on command to enter orbit around the sun at its allocated location. Nasa reported that everything went according to plan.
Before observations can begin in June, the $10 billion observatory’s mirrors must be precisely aligned, the infrared detectors appropriately cold, and the scientific instruments calibrated. Flight controllers in Baltimore, on the other hand, were ecstatic following yet another successful mission.
By the summer, Webb will have begun its research mission, which will entail using its high-resolution infrared instruments to peek back 13.5 billion years to the first generation of galaxies formed after the Big Bang. As it moves around the Sun at L2, it will stay in line with the Earth, allowing Webb’s sun shield to protect its sensitive equipment from heat and light.
Webb will investigate the atmospheres of extraterrestrial worlds for possible signs of life, in addition to making stellar studies.
“Webb has arrived at the station,” says the announcer “According to Keith Parrish, a project manager, “This is just the cherry on top of a remarkable 30 days.”
On Christmas Day, the telescope was launched from French Guiana. A sun shield the size of a tennis court spread open on the telescope a week and a half later. The instrument’s gold-coated primary mirror, measuring 21 feet (6.5 meters) across a few days later, unfolded.
The main mirror comprises 18 hexagonal segments, each the size of a coffee table, that must be meticulously aligned so that they seem like one – a three-month project.
On Monday, the thruster fire put the telescope in orbit around the sun at the so-called second Lagrange point, where the sun’s and Earth’s gravitational pulls are balanced. The 7-ton spacecraft will loop-de-loop around that point while also circling the sun. To keep its infrared detectors as cold as possible, it will constantly face Earth’s night side.
Webb is more than four times as far away as the moon, at 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers). The Webb is projected to last at least a decade, if not two.