The James Webb Space Telescope will revolutionize astronomy and seek to find life beyond Earth
PEORIA (HEART OF ILLINOIS ABC) – The Hubble Telescope revolutionized the way we see the universe, but now the James Webb Space Telescope is here to do the same thing, but on a bigger scale.
Renae Kerrigan, science curator and planetarium director at the Peoria Riverfront Museum, said: “The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to observe very distant objects that are obscured by gas and dust that Hubble could not see. .”
The telescope took NASA more than two decades to build and cost up to $10 billion.
Kerrigan said: “It had to be fully folded to fit in the biggest rocket available, and then once in space its main mirror had to unfold. Tt has this huge visor that had to deploy, so he had to have 50 separate deployments to get into operational form.
Last week, the telescope deployed its sunshade, a part of the telescope that’s about the size of a tennis court and is needed to block heat from the sun as well as the earth.
The telescope measures in the infrared, that is, the light that is not visible to the human eye. It uses ultra-sensitive sensors to measure heat signatures, so the telescope must be in a very cold environment.
Kerrigan added: “So he has this visor that is 5 layers of silver coded film. The temperature difference between the sunny side of the sunshade and the instrument side of the telescope is about one thousand degrees from the hot side to the cold side.
The goal is to study the atmosphere of planets outside our solar system. The stars we see at night each have their own planets, and as curious humans, we want to study and observe these planets to find out if they might look like Earth.
“The James Webb will be able to directly observe the atmospheres of these extrasolar planets as they transit through their stars, and using spectroscopy he may be able to find chemical signatures that would help us understand what that atmosphere looks like and if it’s like Earth,” Kerrigan says.
Chemical signatures such as carbon, ammonia and methane, to see if these atmospheres are similar to Earth and if they could support life.
Because the telescope had a very efficient launch and saved propellant, the life of the telescope was extended to 20 years instead of the originally planned 10.
Once the telescope reaches its Lagrange point, its fixed position to orbit the sun a million miles from Earth, the team will run tests to make sure everything is working properly.
The telescope is set to reach this position and complete the 50 precise steps to be taken over the next 10 days.
They expect to see the first images from the telescope this summer.
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