The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a powerful "time machine" with which one aspires to unravel the formation of the universe, will be released between October 31 and early DecemberThe three space agencies that are behind this project specified this Tuesday.
This joint mission of the American POT, the European ESA and the Canadian CSA already had their date set for the end of October, but the margin of maneuver is widened in the event of possible eventualities in the preparation of the instrument itself, of its rocket, the Ariane 5, or of the port facilities. European space of Kurú, in French Guiana.
Planned initially for May 2020 and then for March of this year, its take-off was delayed again, to October, due to the impact of the pandemic of the covid-19 and other technical challenges.
But once it is in space, the confidence of scientists in its possibilities is enormous.
"It will become the center of the entire astrophysical observing program for the next decade or more"Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, told a press conference.
The possibility of clarifying the origin of galaxies and stars includes the promise of changing "not only what we know, but how we think as humans," added the expert, what an adventure that he will be able to teach us about the universe "as it is not. we have never seen ".
JWST is designed to "expand on the scientific successes" of the Hubble telescope and complement it. It will be the largest and most powerful that has ever been launched into space and will take a month to reach its orbit, a million and a half kilometers from Earth.
It will offer an unprecedented view of the universe at near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths and will allow the study of a wide variety of celestial objects, from neighboring galaxies to the far reaches of the more distant universe.
Unprecedented resolution and capabilities
Its primary mirror, in the shape of a honeycomb with 18 hexagonal segments, is 6.5 meters high, compared to 2.4 meters in Hubble, and will help to look at what happened about 13.5 billion years ago, 1 billion more than the another telescope.
It is designed to clarify what the universe looked like when its first stars and galaxies formed, the evolution of black holes or the life cycle of stars, from birth to death..
The resolution of your images will be key. In regions where it is currently known that there are a large number of new stars, the presence of gas and dust makes it difficult to observe them clearly, but with their power it will be "as if that veil had been lifted", pointed out Antonella Nota, scientist of the Webb project of the ESA.
It will take between two and six months to obtain the first images with all their quality, but as soon as they are available "our heads will blow away", stressed Günther Hasinger, ESA's Director of Science, with an enthusiasm shared by all its promoters.
The telescope is 8 meters high and its sunshade, once unfolded, the size of a tennis court, so one of the logistical challenges is its installation on a 5.4 meter diameter rocket, folded as if it were origami, according to ESA.
Europa contributes with the launch service from Kurú aboard an Ariane 5 and with two key scientific tools: the NIRSpec spectrograph and the MIRI mid-infrared instrument half.