James Webb Space Telescope Final Unfolding: Primary Mirror to Be Deployed on January 8

Science

Through the past week, NASA engineers have been working diligently to deploy major equipment and tools aboard James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), including its sunshield and secondary mirror. On Saturday, January 8,  the primary camera of the $10-billion (roughly Rs. 74,340 crore) space observatory will be deployed, which will study the origin of the Universe and exoplanets. With this, the major deployments of the most powerful telescope ever sent into space will conclude. After finishing the unprecedented process of unfolding in space, JWST will start preparing for complex operations.

JWST is a collaborative project between NASA, European Space Agency, and Canadian Space Agency. It was launched on December 25 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. After being released into space, the telescope gradually began unfolding itself and is now in its final stages. The process is human-controlled and provides the team with the flexibility to pause and adjust. This, sometimes, leads to change in initial plans for deployments.

NASA said it will air live coverage of the final hours of JWST’s major deployments. The live coverage is set to begin at 7:30pm IST tomorrow.

The live broadcast is expected to conclude around 12am (midnight) in India, and then NASA will hold a press briefing. Both the broadcast and media briefing will air live on the agency’s website.

This will conclude James Webb’s major deployments but it will take some more time to get fully operational and replace the Hubble telescope. Once it is ready, JWST will explore every phase of cosmic history. It will help us understand the origins of the universe and our place in it.

Earlier this week, JWST completed tensioning its kite-shaped sunshield, which will keep the telescope cool enough to allow it to capture images of faraway stars and planets. The unfolding of the five layers of the sunshield proved to be a triumph of space engineering. Many initially doubted its success as the design involved a number of motors, gears, cables, and other equipment.


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