Space Telescope Launched To Study First Stars

The world's largest and most powerful space telescope has been launched to study the first stars and galaxies and search the universe for signs of life.

 

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope took off from French Guiana on South America's northeastern coast. It traveled into space on a European Ariane Rocket on Christmas morning, December 25, 2021.

 

The $10 billion space telescope will fly 1.6 million kilometers into space, or more than four times beyond the moon. It will take a month to get there and another five months before it's ready to start scanning the cosmos.

 

First, the telescope's enormous mirror and sunshield will unfurl, which will allow the 6.3-tonne telescope to see back in time 13.7 billion years, or within just 100 million years of the Big Bang.

 

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson called Webb a time machine that will give us "a better understanding of our universe and our place in it: who we are, what we are, the search that's eternal."

 

Planned to be a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb is named after NASA's administrator during the 1960s. NASA partnered with the European and Canadian space agencies to build and launch the telescope, with thousands of people from 29 countries working on it since the 1990s.

 

The launch had been planned for earlier in December, but weather and other technical issues delayed the launch.

 

Around the world, astronomers and countless others tuned in to watch the launch broadcast, anxious to see Webb finally taking flight after years of setbacks.

 

Cheers and applause erupted in and outside Launch Control following Webb's flawless launch, with jubilant scientists embracing one another amid shouts of "Go Webb!"

 

Cameras on the rocket provided one last glimpse of the telescope against a backdrop of Earth, before it sped away.

 

NASA is planning for the James Webb to be operational for about ten years. The fuel tank is accessible to visiting spacecraft to refill — if and when that technology becomes available.

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