The James Webb Space Telescope approaches its destination in orbit around...

Posted in: 24/01/2022 – 15:27

                 The James Webb Space Telescope, launched by the US Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and designed to give humanity a glimpse into the early stages of the universe, is close to reaching its destination on Monday, January 24, 2022, in an orbit around the Sun, about 1.6 million kilometers from the earth.                

By maneuvering to correct the final trajectory using the rocket thrusters on board the telescope at 1900 GMT, Webb is expected to reach its stable position between Earth and the Sun known as the Lagrande 2 or L2 point, a month after launch.

Eric Smith, scientific director of NASA’s Webb program, said console engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore will operate the thrusters and that the ground team will use radio signals to confirm Webb’s successful entry into orbit.

From its privileged position in space, the Webb telescope will follow a special path to remain compatible with the Earth in the rotation of the planet and the telescope together around the sun, allowing wireless communication with it without interruption.

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched 30 years ago by Webb, revolves around the Earth at an altitude of 547 km, which makes it enter and exit the Earth’s shadow every 90 minutes.

The gravitational forces of the Sun and the Earth together allow point L2 to keep the telescope in its position so that it does not need additional rocket thrust to prevent it from moving away from its position.

The operations center also began adjusting the main mirror of the telescope, which is made up of 18 gold-plated beryllium octagonal mirrors, each 6.5 meters wide, much larger than the main mirror of the Hubble telescope.

The size of the telescope and its design will allow it to work mainly in infrared light to accurately look through the clouds of gas and dust and observe objects at greater distances, i.e. knowing what happened in earlier times than what was made available by Hubble or other telescopes to mankind.

These properties are expected to herald a revolution in the world of astronomy, allowing a first view of galaxies in the stages of their formation only 100 million years after the Big Bang, whose theory says that the known universe began to expand in continuous motion 13.8 billion years ago.

The devices installed on the Webb telescope make it ideal for searching for signs of planets that allow life on their surface among dozens of planets orbiting distant stars that have been documented recently, as well as observing celestial bodies closer to Earth, such as Mars and Titan, one of Jupiter’s moons.

  • Next steps

It will take several more months to prepare the Webb telescope for its launch in space.

The 18 mirrors that make up the primary mirror were deployed along with the rest of the telescope’s structural components in the two weeks following its December 25 launch. The mirror parts were folded to allow it to be stored in the space aboard the rocket that launched the telescope into space.

The eighteen mirrors must now be aligned to achieve proper focus for the main mirror, a process that would take three months to complete.

Meanwhile, the ground teams will start activating the spectrograph, camera and other equipment. This will be followed by a two-month calibration process for the devices themselves, Smith said.

But Smith said that the telescope’s most ambitious missions, including plans to direct the mirror to the furthest objects from Earth, would take longer, so the world would not be able to receive these images for some time.

The telescope is an international project led by NASA in cooperation with the European and Canadian Space Agency.


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