The James Webb Space Telescope has been revealed on Wednesday by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The picture posted in Twitter revealed the impetuosity of the soon-to-be launch telescope with its main mirror, which was first ever showed.
The JWST will complement the already launched telescope, the Hubble, and will become the most powerful one in space. It is composed of 18 hexagonal gold-coated beryllium mirrors, collective spanning 6.5 meters and about 7 times the collecting power of the Hubble, as reported by Discovery News.
It is so large compared to the “school bus-sized” predecessor that it will need a new way to be launched into space. Scientists already resolved that issue by making the large observer able to fold and unfold.
The making of the largest space telescope in history is a conjoined project between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency and Space Telescope Science Institute (STSI) and is scheduled to launch in 2018. The machine is being constructed at the U.S. space agency’s Goddard Space Flight center in Maryland.
Once fully operated, the telescope will be able to study many phases in the history of the universe, including the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets similar to Earth, as well as the evolution of the solar system. Scientists once said that the fully assembled telescope was a “great way to start 2016”.
— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) April 27, 2016
At a close point during the construction, there is the need for the main mirror to be flipped 180 degrees for the engineering team to attach JWST’s instruments behind the largest mirror, as reported by BBC News.
This will leave a really sensitive surface exposed to scratches but, according to the European Space Agency’s JWST project scientist, Pierre Ferruit, this was very unlikely. “The main danger is to get some accumulation of dust. But it is a cleanroom so that accumulation is very slow,” he said.
“They need to rotate the telescope to get access to the back, and the protective covers were only resting on the mirror segments, so they had to be removed before the rotation,” Ferruit added. However, with the mirror upside down the exposure to dust will be much less, and Ferruit doubted that anyone will be allowed to walk underneath.