Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s chief of science missions, said in a statement that the James Webb Space Telescope passed the “hardest step” on the list on Tuesday by fully opening the heat shield, a five-layer canopy, which is essential for observing the universe.
Although the observatory still required several operations to be ready, opening this canopy was necessary to protect scientific instruments from the heat of the sun and even radiation from the Earth and the moon – it only works at very low temperatures and in the dark, and it hunts dimly. Light from the farthest reaches of the universe.
The next step is to open the mirrors: first secondary, smaller and placed at the end of the tripod, then the main, covered with gold and with a diameter of 6.6 meters.
The telescope was too big for a rocket, so it had to be folded on itself like origami and deployed into space, a very dangerous procedure.
“It’s a very special day,” astronomer Klaus Pontopedan, James Webb’s chief scientist, wrote on Twitter. “I think it’s time to realize that we may soon have a giant, fully functional space telescope.”
The canopy measures 20 x 14 meters, is the size of a tennis court, and is diamond-shaped.
Its layers, as thin as a strand of hair, were folded like an accordion and would now stretch until they were tens of inches apart.
It is made of kapton, a material chosen for its resistance to temperature extremes because the face closest to the sun can reach 125°C and the farthest face to -235°C.
It was opened thanks to hundreds of pulleys and cables to guide them, as well as motors to extend each spark plug from each end of the diamond.
On Monday, the first three layers were successfully opened and extended. Tuesday morning, the teams did the same with the latter two. Before that, the two “Palette Structures” containing the Sun Shield were activated.
Astronomers from all over the world are waiting worry James web, the most powerful space telescope, as it will allow us to observe the first galaxies, which formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. The big news is that it will work on the spectrum Infrared Near and medium wavelengths visible to the naked eye.
The observatory was launched a little over a week ago from French Guiana and is currently located more than 900,000 km from Earth. Its final orbit, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, is four times the distance between our planet and the Moon.
James web It will be at what is known as the point Lagrange 2 (L2). This region is the point at which celestial bodies remain with less gravitational influence than the Earth and the Sun, that is, they remain “parked” in space.
On this site, if any problems arise, it will not be possible to send a repair task.
On December 31, NASA released a time-lapse showing the telescope’s path from the region of the Moon’s orbit to the stars of Orion. In the end, it is possible to see the moment the telescope departs towards L2.
To illustrate the path, scientists from the North York Astronomical Society (NYAA) combined the images with another satellite image. This image is in color, showing the path in a white line. (with AFP)
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