Twenty-six years after the launch of the Hubble space telescope, NASA is ready with its next generation of the space telescope, James Webb Space Telescope which is thousand times more sensitive than any its predecessors. The massive telescope which has been folded like an origami will be hurled into space by the Ariane 5 rocket of ESA from French Guiana in October 2018.
The construction of the telescope has been completed, and the scientists are testing it to check if it will work flawlessly in space. Senior project scientist and Nobel laureate John Mather said that the telescope is much more powerful than even the great Hubble Telescope. The telescope has completed its first crucial tests known as the Center of Curvature test which is designed to measure the mirror’s shape.
The 6.5-meter primary mirror composed of 18 hexagonal mirrors will be going through some rigorous tests, which include shocks and violent sound vibrations which the telescope has to endure on its journey to space aboard the Ariane rocket. The curvature test will be again conducted to ensure that there is no damage to the optical instruments after the shock tests.
The telescope is the result of toil by thousands of scientists and is a joint project of NASA, European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency. The telescope help astronomers view distant objects in the universe and provide the images of the earliest formed galaxies and new planets orbiting distant stars.
The Webb’s telescope is much more sensitive than its predecessors. The Hubble Telescope has a 2.4-meter diameter mirror while Webb’s primary mirror is 6.5 meters. It will be able to see in the visible and infra-red spectrum. The mirror itself is composed of 18 hexagonal segments and is constructed of lightweight beryllium. It can be folded just like origami and will unfold after reaching space.