In an effort to discover the birth of the Universe, scientists have blasted the world’s most powerful space telescope into orbit.
The historical mission set off on Saturday, December 25, from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana and will see the observatory travel to an outpost 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, reports BBC.
Named after a former NASA director, the James Webb telescope is the successor to the legendary Hubble and has been three decades in the making with engineers from the US, European and Canadian space agencies pouring their blood, sweat and tears into the making of this powerful observatory.
The telescope is said to be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble and has been blasted off with the intention of showing humans what the Universe looked like even closer to its birth nearly 14 billion years ago, along with giving us a peek into the habitable planets located in our galaxy, as per NASA.
“Lift off from a tropical rainforest to the edge of time itself, James Webb begins a voyage back to the birth of the Universe,” said American space agency (Nasa) TV commentator Rob Navias at the moment the rocket left the Earth.
The Webb telescope is a powerful tool and is unrivalled when it comes to its size and complexity. Its mirror measures 6.5 metres in diameter – three times the size of the Hubble’s mirror – and is made of 18 hexagonal sections. According to the Webb project co-founder John Mather, the telescope is capable of seeing the heat signature of a bumblebee at a distance of the Moon.
This incredible feat will come in handy when detecting the weak glow emitted billions of years ago by the first galaxies and the forming of the first stars.
However, according to scientists, one of the biggest challenges that the Webb telescope will face is to fully deploy the mirror and a tennis-court-sized sun shield. This is crucial to ensure that the Webb functions correctly.
It will take a month to reach its destination and is expected to officially enter service in June 2022.
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