NASA and its international colleagues are constructing an even more powerful tool than the Hubble telescope, whose 25th anniversary is this week, in order to see deeper into the universe.
The James Webb Space Telescope will be 100 times more powerful than Hubble, and its mission will launch in 2018. Its purpose is to offer astronomers an unprecedented look at the first galaxies that came to be in the early universe.
“JWST will be able to see back to about 200 million years after the Big Bang. The telescope is a powerful time machine with infrared vision that will peek back over 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness,” NASA said on its website.
The project has meant huge costs, now at around $8.8bn, far higher than the first estimate of $3.5bn. NASA has promised to limit the expenses with its next-generation telescope before the October 2018 launch.
“We will be able, with these capabilities, to look in very dark parts of the universe where stars are being born,” said Webb telescope observatory project scientist Mark Clampin.
The James Webb Space Telescope is a joint project of NASA, the Canadian and European space agencies. It will carry four instruments, like spectrometers and high-tech cameras which can capture extremely weak signals.
Infra-red will aid it observe distant celestial structures, and its camera has the ability to remain open for long periods, said Matt Greenhouse, JWST project scientist for the science instruments.
The new telescope should contribute to the search for life in the universe by analyzing planets outside the solar system, called exoplanets, that could have water and be at a suitable distance to prevent boiling or freezing.
Kepler Space telescope, launched by NASA in 2009, has aided astronomers to discover thousands of exoplanets. JWST is expected to extend that research even further.
“Webb is quite big enough to have a high probability of finding bio signatures in the atmosphere of exoplanets, evidence of life,” Greenhouse explained, adding that the equipment on board will examine the exoplanets and their atmosphere.
Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, which is orbiting the Earth, the JWST head to a place named LaGrange point 2, which is 1.5 million kilometers away in space.
That distance will help to keep the telescope cold, and also prevent it from being blinded by its own infra-red light and protect it from radiation.
“It will follow the Earth around the Sun over the course of the year. So it’s in a Sun center orbit instead of an Earth center orbit,” added Greenhouse.
The revolutionary telescope will be launched on board of Ariane 5 rocket, made by the European Space Agency, from French Guiana in October 2018.
Image Source: Twitter