Western Slope Skies - James Webb Telescope

Jun 25, 2021

The fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope with its sunshield and unitized pallet structures that will fold up around the telescope for launch.
Credit NASA

The James Webb Telescope is NASA‘s newest space telescope that’s been in development for about 25 years and has cost nearly 10 billion dollars to build, more than double what it was initially supposed to cost. NASA and its partners are planning to launch it on Halloween of this year.

The new James Webb Telescope is a replacement for the Hubble Telescope. Webb will be able to see deep into space and will give us more clues as to how the universe began. It will be searching for new planets that may be able to support life, and NASA is also hoping to uncover the mystery behind dark matter with data taken from the James Webb Telescope. No one knows what dark matter is, but we know it has great influence over the universe.

The telescope will collect infrared light as it reflects off of multiple mirrors, via a high-tech sensor. These mirrors are coated in gold and are over 20 feet wide. On the bottom of the telescope there will be a large reflector that will block any light from our sun and will allow the telescope to collect even the smallest traces of light billions of light years away.

Unlike the Hubble Telescope, which orbits the Earth, the James Webb Telescope will revolve around the sun. This will have less impact on the telescope itself and will allow it to collect better pictures of deep space. The Hubble Telescope is about the size of a school bus, but the new Webb Telescope will be about the size of a tennis court, and it will weigh about as much as two heavy duty pick-up trucks. The telescope will be launched on a European rocket from South America near the equator, at which point it will begin to unfold in space.

The construction of the James Webb Telescope has been enormously difficult, due to the extreme challenges of building such a powerful and precise telescope. After NASA‘s mistake regarding the Hubble Telescope, they are taking their time to get it right. This time the telescope will be orbiting much further away from earth and will be inaccessible for any such repairs.

This has truly been an international project, and everyone is extremely excited to see what we can learn from this amazing piece of technology We are unsure of what we will discover but surely we will find something incredibly interesting, perhaps see how the very first galaxies formed and see stars and planets forming in our own galaxy. We may even find a new home that is suitable for life.

Western Slope Skies is produced by the Black Canyon Astronomical Society. This episode was written and recorded by Joshua Kolb, an astronomy student of Dr. Catherine Whiting at Colorado Mesa University.