What do we know about the expansion of the James Webb Space Telescope?

The most powerful telescope ever launched into space is nearing the end of a meticulous assembly process that has kept astronomers on edge for weeks.

From its Christmas morning start, James Webb Space Telescope has made all the right moves. Now it enters the final part of its complex deployment phase.

At these terminal steps, the two panels on either side of the telescope, which has 18 gold-plated hexagonal mirrors, are folded back when launched, leading to a reflective honeycomb-like reflector. The 21-foot-wide glass transmits light from the cosmos to the secondary glass, which then pushes the light into the telescope’s main infrared sensor.

The expanding phase of the telescope is expected to end Saturday morning, after the right side panel of the glass section of its remaining three mirrors has been secured. The left side completed its deployment on Friday, which took five and a half hours.

NASA’s live video stream showed task managers monitoring the deployment from the Space Telescope Science Institute’s task control room in Baltimore, the telescope’s central operations center.

At 10:15 a.m. Eastern time, the mission’s managers sent out the first orders to begin rolling the glass. Just before 10:30, the panel opened slowly, so that the three hexagonal mirrors were tightly sealed with the other 15. The staff applauded before moving on to the next steps of fitting the glasses. The process ended at 1:18 pm “How does it all feel to make history? You did it, ”said Thomas Jurbusen, NASA’s head of science, commenting on his work at the Baltimore Space Science Telescope.

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Earlier in the live video show, Dr. Jurbusen described how he was emotional when the telescope’s glasses finally clicked in that spot.

“What an amazing milestone,” he said. “We see that beautiful shape in the sky now.”

But could not see what was going on in the telescope.

Rockets and some spacecraft carry built-in cameras so that engineers on Earth can monitor their behavior in space. Therefore, engineers can expect to pack cameras into the James Webb Space Telescope, the most expensive and technically sophisticated surveillance ever launched into space with 344 “single points of failure”.

Think again.

The telescope does not have surveillance cameras. Instead, engineers rely on switches, sensors and motors to monitor its health during deployment.

NASA has dropped the idea of ​​adding surveillance cameras to the web due to technical issues and risk. The new size and shape of the telescope – one side of its solar shield that diverts too much heat and sunlight and the other instrument-heavy side sinks into cold darkness – will require many customized cameras. The wires and mounts for those cameras are already heavy telescopes, adding weight and risk to the agency Explained In a blog post.

Paul Keithner, NASA’s deputy project manager for the technical side of the web project, said: “It’s not as straightforward as adding a door bell game or rocket camera.

Since the introduction of the web, engineers have completed a dozen key steps in the assembly phase to bring the telescope to its final shape, including hundreds of moving parts such as switches, motors, pulleys and cables. The process began within 30 minutes of being launched last month, using Webb’s solar array – the only step captured on video when the telescope split into space with its rocket, which had an internal camera.

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The telescope has crossed many milestones, and it does much to alleviate the anxiety of astronomers and alleviate the fear that a complex system such as the Web may encounter obstacles in its millions of miles of space travel. The telescope was activated, the antennas mechanically stretched across various joints, and at the most technically complex milestone gently stretched five layers of tennis-court-sized plastic sheet designed to protect the telescope’s ultrasonic camera sensors from the sun’s heat.

The Web Telescope is designed to study an important extension of early cosmic history known by astronomers as the Dark Ages.

Cosmologists believe that the first stars appeared when the universe was about 100 million years old. (Today it is 13.8 billion years old.) The distant and early galaxy viewed by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope, the universe was 400 million years after the Big Bang. What happened in those intervening 300 million years when the universe was flying glowing, and how the Big Bang became a sky full of stars and life is a mystery.

This telescope will enable astronomers to better study galaxies and other large holes in the center of the planets orbiting stars in our galaxy.

To achieve these scientific observations, the web telescope relies on a primary glass with a diameter of 6.5 meters, which is 2.4 meters compared to the glass in the Hubble. It has the ability to collect seven times as much light and look further into the past.

Another important difference is that it contains cameras and other instruments that are sensitive to infrared or “heat” radiation. Expansion of the universe Light in generally visible wavelengths becomes long infrared wavelengths invisible to the human eye.

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Engineers had to invent 10 new technologies to make the telescope more sensitive than the Hubble. Highly optimistic table forecasts, occasional growth accidents and irregular spending reports dragged the timeline until 2021, raising the total cost to $ 10 billion.

To understand how the James Web Space Telescope’s tracking powers and astronomers’ research can help, try these two augmented reality experiences in your own space with a smartphone logged in to Instagram.

With a 3-D map of the observable universe, it will first show you where the web is in space and time. It plans some of the spacecraft’s initial targets, including Earth – like extraterrestrials and early known galaxies. Please try again Here on Instagram.

The second augmented reality experience shows how the web receives visual stimuli from the power of gravitational lensing.

Put a virtual black hole in your space and see how it acts like a magnifying glass around you. The same technique will help astronomers study the early universe. Please try again Here on Instagram.

Nova Bisner Contributed report.

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