This is going to be one of the biggest advancements for humanity in our life time. Certainly at least for the year 2022. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched on the 25th December 2021 and sent off into outer space.
In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into Low Earth Orbit. It revealed the most incredible photos of our Universe that we had never seen before. More than that, it gave us information about our place in the Universe.
Images From The Hubble
The James Webb Space Telescope has a mass about half of Hubble Space Telescope’s, but a 6.5 m diameter gold-coated beryllium primary mirror made of 18 hexagonal mirrors, giving it a total size over six times as large as Hubble’s 2.4 m. Beryllium is a very stiff, hard, lightweight metal often used in aerospace that is non-magnetic and keeps its shape accurately in an ultra-cold environment. The gold coating provides infrared reflectivity and durability.
The James Webb Space Telescope has four key goals:
- to search for light from the first stars and galaxies
- to study the formation and evolution of galaxies
- to understand the formation of stars and planetary systems
- to study planetary systems and the origins of life.
JWST will orbit the Sun near the second Lagrange point (L2) of the Sun-Earth system, which is 1,500,000 km farther from the Sun than the Earth’s orbit. Normally an object circling the Sun farther out than Earth would take longer than one year to complete its orbit. But near the L2 point, the combined gravitational pull of the Earth and the Sun allow a spacecraft to orbit the Sun in the same time that it takes the Earth. Staying close to Earth allows data rates to be much faster for a given size of antenna. The larger distance from Earth & the Sun is to ensure it’s free from interference.
The incredible precision and innovation of the design and its placement in orbit means that the JWST will be effectively 100x more accurate than the Hubble. This is a game changer. We will learn new things about our Universe.
We will also be able to find more “goldilocks” planets like Kepler 186f. Planets that can sustain life. Planets that we can start making plans to visit.
We will start to see photos from the James Webb around June of this year. They will be inspiring and mind blowing. Over the next few years astrophysicists will get data that will better explain our Universe and just maybe our part to play in it.
Most importantly, I think space exploration unites us. In a time when we’re more fragmented and disconnected than ever, ventures like this bring us together as humans.