NASA’s New Telescope and Finding Clues About Our Universe Explained

This task has been carried out for decades. The concept of the telescope was first envisioned as a successor to the Hubble in 1989, and construction began in 2004. Now, Webb, 100 times more powerful than Hubble, is ready to go.

CNN asked readers what you wanted to know about the telescope and its mission.

We sent those questions to the experts: Sara Seager, a planetary scientist and astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Mount Matt, Webb’s Telescope Scientist; and by NASA Stefanie Milam, JWST associate project scientist for planetary science.

Here’s what they said.

How much does it cost to make a telescope?

Stefanie Milam: To build, launch and operate the Webb telescope, NASA spent $ 8.8 billion. When operating costs are included, the total bill comes to more than $9.66 billion.

How long does a telescope take to build?

Milam: In the late 80s, Webb moved from an idea to a real mission concept.
In 1996, there was an official recommendation to build an infrared telescope in space.

Construction began in 2004 and was completed in 2019 with final assembly of parts.

Principal optical test engineer inspects six key mirror segments, key elements of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

What is the main mission of the telescope?

Mount Matt: This is the most complicated telescope ever built, so it has to work first.

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Second, we wanted to delve deeper into parts of the universe that we had never seen before. We wanted to be able to go back in time to see how the first stars and galaxies were born. We want to see how stars are formed into molecular clouds.

We then wanted to explore nearby stars with planets to see if we could find water on their surfaces. This is the first sign that there may be life there.

How do telescopes work?

Milam: It works by pointing the telescope at any object in space. The light is then reflected through the primary mirror to a secondary mirror into the instrument module as the image and spectrum (light waves) are collected. Then we send that data down to Earth.

How deep will this telescope see compared to other telescopes?

Below is a comparison of the overall dimensions of the Webb (left) and Hubble (right) telescopes.
Mountain: With Hubble telescope, we can look back 13.5 billion years and see galaxies, but that’s not enough. We need to get past Hubble to see where those first galaxies and stars came from and how they were created.
With the Webb Telescope, we can go back to within 100 million years big Bang, which records light that has traveled for 13.6 billion years.
NASA put it this way: “Hubble will be able to see the ‘baby galaxy’ and the Webb Telescope will be able to see the ‘baby galaxy’.”

What can telescopes at a distance see?

Sara Seager: The telescope can look back in time more than 13 billion light years. If we want to translate that into a long distance, it’s a distance of 80 billion trillion miles.

Where will the telescope go?

Seager: The telescope will travel very, very far. It will be 1 million miles from Earth at a special Earth-Sun equilibrium, where it is cold, dark, and well-suited for astronomy.

This NASA illustration shows that, unlike Hubble, which orbits Earth, Webb will orbit the sun. This orbit is called the second Lagrange point or L2.

Why have we not seen any signs of life (intelligent or otherwise) so far?

Seager: We haven’t found signs of life through the atmospheres of planets and exoplanets yet because we haven’t been able to.

As for smart life, that’s a whole different story – we’re listening to the message, but smart life has yet to send us a message as far as what our telescopes have. can say.

What if the telescope found life somewhere in outer space? Next step?

Milam: JWST will not be looking for life on other planets, but it will characterize their atmospheres, looking for molecules of interest such as water, carbon dioxide and methane. These molecules will give us an idea of ​​what’s happening on that planet, which we’ll be monitoring with future telescopes.

Once started up, will the Webb telescope be up and running right away, or does it take some setup time?

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Mountain: When it was launched, the telescope was not ready. It’s encased in its cocoon, and it must expand like a butterfly over a million miles of space. After about a month, it will take shape and then scientists have to make all the instruments and mirrors work. About six months after launch, the Webb telescope will be ready to take its first pictures.


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