Thursday, December 16, 2021

Searching for the Big Bang

The James Webb Space Telescope's launch date is currently set for the 22nd December. The telescope's destination is the second Lagrange point, some 930,000 miles from Earth, directly opposite to the Sun. When in position the space telescope will be able to see into the furthest reaches of space up to13.8 billion light-years away. It will be able to detect light from the oldest stars and galaxies in the universe.

You can learn more about the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), how it works and what it might detect in the LA Times' Finding the Big Bang. In this impressive scrollytelling visualization the Times not only explains the JWST's mission but uses 3D modelling to show where the telescope will be positioned. As you scroll through the article a 3D map of the Solar System reveals the location of the Hubble telescope and the Lagrange point (L2) from where the JWST will observe the universe's oldest stars.  

This model of the Solar System then rotates to show how the JWST's orbit will be synchronized to the Earth's orbit around the Sun, in order for the telescope to be able to maintain constant communication with the Earth. Towards the end of the article 3D models of the telescope and the Ariane rocket in which it will be travel to its L2 point show how the JWST will be launched and deployed into space. These animated 3D models also show how the JWST will unfold its sun shield in space in order to block light and heat from the Sun and protect the telescope from radiation.

The JWST should begin to send data back to Earth six months after its deployment. It will be operational for up to ten years. The telescope needs fuel in order to maintain its orbit. The JWST therefore does have an upper limit to its operational life.

1 comment:

Matthew Heberger said...

The launch has actually been postponed. Currently scheduled for Christmas Eve. I know a lot of astronomers will not be sleeping well that night!