James Webb Space Telescope has unfolded 1st wing of its audacious golden mirror.

An animation shows the deployment of the port side of the primary mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope.
An animation shows the deployment of the port side of the primary mirror of the James 
Webb Space Telescope. (Image credit: NASA)

For this space observatory, the launch of James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful space telescope, was just the beginning. It has already traveled over 250,000 miles away from Earth and has completed more than 70% of its last orbit around the sun (via NASA).

It's not enough for the telescope to just move. For an observatory to take the most accurate measurements, many of its components must be enormous, yet space on a rocket is at an absolute minimum. It was necessary for the telescope to self-unroll once it was in orbit before it could take on its final configuration.

When the five-layer sunshield, the size of a tennis court, was finally installed, it was a significant achievement for the observatory. Unfolding it's incredible hexagonal primary mirror is now possible, since its secondary and heat radiator are in place..

The James Webb Space Telescope, the premier space science observatory of the next decade,  is targeted for launch Dec. 25 from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, on the northeastern  coast of South America. Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn
The James Webb Space Telescope, the premier space science observatory of the next decade, 
is targeted for launch Dec. 25 from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, on the northeastern
 coast of South America. Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn

Mechanics began unfolding the primary mirror on Friday, January 7th. With its 18 hexagonal gold-plated sections, the telescope's mirror is one of its most striking features. Because it controls how much light the telescope can detect, the primary mirror has to be large in order to improve precision (via NASA). The 6.5-meter-long James Webb mirror is the largest ever sent into orbit (21 feet). James Webb's telescope will be able to see farther into space because of its bigger mirror, compared to the Hubble Space Telescope's 2.4-meter mirror.

Hubble's 21-foot (6.5-meter) mirror would be too big and bulky for engineers to simply copy. It was decided to make the James Webb mirror using beryllium, which is both lightweight and strong. It is now time for these sections to unfold into their final form so that they can fit inside the rocket.

For the time being at least, NASA reports that one of the mirror wings has been successfully deployed. By 2:11pm ET, the port side mirror wing had been put into place.

If everything goes as planned, the ship's starboard wing should be deployed over the weekend. Afterwards, the telescope should be fully set up and ready to begin its journey to its intended orbital location.

The James Webb Telescope mirrors. Credit: NASA / Chris Gunn
The James Webb Telescope mirrors. Credit: NASA / Chris Gunn

How the James Webb Space Telescope is so different from Hubble

They may now exhale with relief as the James Webb telescope is about to complete a complex self-unfurling procedure in orbit. An altogether new piece of equipment has been put in place to replace the Hubble Space Telescope, the Kepler Space Telescope.

Only the fact that both telescopes use curved mirrors to gather cosmic light is the only thing they have in common. An 18-panel mosaic of hexagonal gold-coated mirrors, measuring 6.5 meters in circumference, is the centerpiece of Webb's art installation.

Hubble is reliant on a single, 2.4-meter-long, solid-glass mirror for all of its optical components. Due to Webb's size advantage, he has 6.25 times more surface area to capture light. In astronomy, size matters, and the Kepler Space Telescope is astronomy's largest space telescope.

By sensing infrared light, it will be able to gather information from even the most remote objects in the cosmos, including those that have existed since the very beginning of time.

We're unpacking this massive telescope.

When compared to Hubble's size, the new telescope couldn't be transported into orbit as a single piece by space shuttle. They were worried because it had to be folded up like a legendary transformer to fit into the nosecone of an Ariane 5 rocket before being unpacked in space.

There is no room for mistakes, and astronauts have no method of fixing anything if anything goes wrong.. It must be flawless from the outset.

Despite its enormous size, this sensor had to be lightweight enough to withstand the high G-forces and vibrations of a rocket launch.

There were 344 single-point failure devices, such as latching mechanisms, hinged mechanisms (such as hinged doors), gear mechanisms (such as gear boxes) and cables (such as pulley systems), that had to be deployed throughout the mission. All of them must work perfectly.

It's been a smooth ride thus far.


Since it began on Christmas Day 2021, that sequence of events has gone according to plan. Even more impressively, the launch was so precise that the telescope will be able to continue operating for longer than the 10 years originally anticipated.

Most nerve-wracking was the installation of a gigantic solar screen that would protect the telescope's ultra-sensitive electronics from solar and lunar radiation.

Five layers of thin aluminized plastic were used to make the shield, and each layer had to be precisely unfolded and stretched tight. In order to keep plastic food wrap from tearing in the cold vacuum of space, fold it in half and store it in an airtight container.

In the past, the technology has been tested on Earth, but gravity is always present on the planet. It was up to the scientists to believe that it would work just as well in the absence of gravity in space. Fortunately, this scenario went off without a hitch.

It's time to assemble the mirror. Each of these components is kept in place in front of the focus point by three long booms, the largest of which serves as a main mirror. All of these components must work together flawlessly in order to achieve this level of accuracy and sensitivity.

Also Read: A journey to Mars might make humans age quicker and become CANNIBALS, experts warn.


We've learned a ton from Hubble.

With the James Webb Space Telescope, a similar embarrassing situation will not arise as it did with the Hubble Space Telescope immediately after launch in 1990. As a result of a flaw in the primary mirror, the early images were warped and hence unusable.

Fortunately, Hubble was constructed with modular components that could be swapped out by astronauts in the event of a malfunction. It was hoped that the astronauts' custom-made corrective optics would eliminate the flaw and restore flawless vision. The telescope has been repaired and improved five times throughout the years, making it more capable than when it was first installed.

Webb has ruled it out as an option. On the far side of the moon, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, it is impossible for people to get there.

The 18 segments of the mirror include actuators that can move them into perfect alignment and even alter the shape of each individual segment to ensure that it has the right curvature with an accuracy of 1/10,000th of human hair.

Because to the dedication of the scientists and engineers who built and tested the telescope before it was launched, everything has gone off without a hitch so far.

Also Read: For the First Time, Astronomers Capture a Red Supergiant Star Exploding in a Massive Supernova.


Having sharper eyes on the cosmos is a good thing.

Rather than being the largest telescope, Hubble revolutionized astronomy because of its ability to see above the turbulence of Earth's atmosphere.

An even more powerful telescope is on its way: the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The most intriguing possibilities are the ones that no one has ever thought of, such as old galaxies at the edge of the known universe and planets orbiting other stars.

Astronomical instruments have grown in size and sophistication since Galileo's first telescope was directed toward the sky more than 400 years ago. Who knows what wonders Webb may see in the years to come.

Who knows what wonders will be revealed through Webb's eyes in the years to come.


 Also Read: A billion suns' worth of energy spews from the 'Cosmic Monster' star.


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