New Telescope to Launch; Bigger and Stronger than Hubble


Ewan Wilson, Staff Writer

NASA’s new telescope, the James Webb telescope, is supposed to launch no later than Christmas Eve 2021. This will launch a mission that spans many years, it will in theory be able to see back to the formation of some of the first stars and even the universe some 13.8 billion years ago. For reference, The Hubble telescope, the James Webbs predecessor, sees in a completely different light wavelength than the Webb, meaning while they can see very comparable distances, they collect very different images. The James Webb will be able to see in an infrared gap that no other telescope has covered up to this point, meaning it will in theory be able to see things no other telescope has seen before. This gap should allow the Webb to see further back than humanity ever has before. 

The Tech

The James Webb telescope will be positioned 1.5 million miles from earth, that’s about as far as the earth is from the sun! To shield the delicate mechanics from the harsh rays of the sun, a sun shield the size of a tennis court was made, it will keep the equipment at around -370 degrees Fahrenheit. The mirror on the telescope is 6.5 meters across compared to Hubble’s  2.4 meters. With its giant size it will not only be the biggest mirror in space but also the largest telescope humanity has ever built, not to mention the most advanced. With a price tag of $10 billion exceeding the Hubble by 5 times. 

The Mission

The telescope will be tightly packed into a rocket and begin its 6 month 1.5 million mile journey. Once it reaches its orbital spot it will take about two weeks to slowly assemble and unfold itself until its mirror is finally deployed. Once it’s operational the mission will last between 5-10 years, though depending on its success it’s liable to be extended. Again, looking at the Hubble telescope for reference, it has been in service since 1990, that’s over 31 years! And Hubble is still making new discoveries to this day. Only time will tell what mysteries of the universe will be discovered in the coming decades. 

Looking to the Future

These technologies are still in their infancy, who knows where space travel will be in only, say 20 years. Right now traveling these great distances in outer space can take decades, in the future we may be able to traverse these distances within weeks or even days. What we see today as the absolute crème de la crème of humanity’s potential, will seem like a mere party trick in the future.