What is the James Webb Telescope?


More than 20 years and $10 billion after the announcement of its construction, the James Webb Telescope is finally complete as of this last week.  Developed specifically to replace the iconic Hubble Telescope, which made headlines last month due to technological failures that took it out of commission, the James Webb is ready to give us even more insight into space than ever before with the most cutting-edge technology NASA has ever innovated.

The James Webb has finally passed its final inspections and tests, and is now prepared to makes its journey across the ocean to end up in its destination for official launch.  From there, it will be put to work as one of the most highly-anticipated launches in NASA’s career.

The James Webb Telescope

The James Webb Telescope was first proposed in 1997, as a replacement for the Hubble which has been in operation since April of 1990.  The Hubble, at the time, was a remarkable technological feat, but technology moves fast, and NASA had to develop a new telescope to address the limitations of its predecessor.  In 1997, it was proposed that the James Webb would require $500 million to create, and that amount has increased over time until it officially turned out to cost 20 times that amount.  Followers of the telescope’s development have been eagerly awaiting its launch for decades, as it has seen countless hurdles throughout the years.

The Hubble was groundbreaking at the time of its launch, primarily because of its full spectrum spatial images that allowed us to see space like never before, separating light into different components of color to show us visuals that we had never thought were possible.  Although the Hubble, throughout its career, had been upgraded to introduce new, advanced technology into its capabilities, at its core, it’s become outdated.

The main difference between the two giants is that the Hubble utilizes optical and ultraviolet wavelengths to provide images, and has only slight infrared capability.  The James Webb is, on the other hand, an infrared-based telescope with a far larger mirror to give us greater access to larger distances in space.

The James Webb improves upon the Hubble with many of the same features that has made the Hubble such a mainstay for so long.  While the goals are the same in terms of its abilities to observe space objects with accurate details, it utilizes redshifted imagery, which allows us to view clear images from greater distances, instantly allowing us to dive deeper into space to see objects that were simply invisible up until now.  Because the James Webb is an infrared telescope, it gives us the ability to observe and record data pertaining to space objects extremely far away without having to actually travel to them, thus making the telescope very cost-efficient as well.

What We’re Looking Forward to Now that the James Webb Telescope is Complete

As we all await the official launch of the James Webb Telescope, we’re already anticipating what it can do once it’s fully operational.  NASA already has big plans in mind, unsurprisingly, that can reshape our understanding of space.

Due to its infrared capabilities, the James Webb, according to NASA, will show us space objects that existed 13 billion years ago, which promises the capability to observe the first stars to ever develop in our solar system.  The significance of this cannot be stated enough, as it can give us profound insight into how our solar system was formed, in relation to the Big Bang, with images to go with it that will undoubtedly inspire us all.  The James Webb should also provide us with more information about black holes by being able to observe them from a visual standpoint so that we can grasp how they are formed and what their effects are like never before.  The telescope will also show protoplanetary discs for the first time, which will show us how planets and their solar systems develop over time, while having the unique ability, unlike the Hubble, to block the lights of star so that we can see objects surrounding them.

While the Hubble failed to demonstrate interstellar dust, the James Webb can, which can give us critical information about stars in terms of their lifespans and history in our solar system.  This will show us more detail pertaining to the life cycles of stars and how they impact nearby space objects.

Final Thoughts

The James Webb Telescope is a gamechanger in space exploration and will effectively replace the Hubble to take us through new journeys into our solar system.  Its launch is finally approaching, and without a doubt, NASA will quickly get to work implementing it so that we can discover more about space objects than we ever have thus far.

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