Nasa deploys Webb telescope’s sunshield

Published January 5, 2022
This combination of images from a computer animation made available by Nasa in December 2021 depicts the unfolding of the components of the James Webb Space Telescope. — AP/File
This combination of images from a computer animation made available by Nasa in December 2021 depicts the unfolding of the components of the James Webb Space Telescope. — AP/File

CAPE CANAVERAL: The US space agency (Nasa) aced the most complicated, critical job on its newly launched space telescope on Tuesday: unrolling and stretching a sunshade the size of a tennis court.

Ground controllers cheered and bumped fists once the fifth and final layer of the sunshield was tightly secured around the James Webb telescope. It took just 36 hours to tighten the ultra-thin layers using motor-driven cables, half the expected time.

The seven-ton telescope is so big that the sunshield and the primary gold-plated mirror had to be folded for launch. The sunshield is so unwieldy that it spans 70 feet by 46 feet to keep all the infrared, heat-sensing science instruments in constant subzero shadow.

The mirrors are next up for release this weekend.

The $10 billion telescope is more than halfway toward its destination 1.6 million kilometres away, following its Christmas Day sendoff. It is the biggest and most powerful observatory ever launched — 100 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope — enabling it to peer back to almost the beginning of time.

Considered Hubble’s successor, Webb will attempt to hunt down light from the universe’s first stars and galaxies. “This is a really big moment,” project manager Bill Ochs told the control team in Baltimore. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but getting the sunshield out and deployed is really, really big.”

Engineers spent years redoing and tweaking the shade. At one point, dozens of fasteners fell off during a vibration test.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2022

Opinion

A state of chaos

A state of chaos

The establishment’s increasingly intrusive role has further diminished the credibility of the political dispensation.

Editorial

Bulldozed bill
Updated 22 May, 2024

Bulldozed bill

Where once the party was championing the people and their voices, it is now devising new means to silence them.
Out of the abyss
22 May, 2024

Out of the abyss

ENFORCED disappearances remain a persistent blight on fundamental human rights in the country. Recent exchanges...
Holding Israel accountable
22 May, 2024

Holding Israel accountable

ALTHOUGH the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor wants arrest warrants to be issued for Israel’s prime...
Iranian tragedy
Updated 21 May, 2024

Iranian tragedy

Due to Iran’s regional and geopolitical influence, the world will be watching the power transition carefully.
Circular debt woes
21 May, 2024

Circular debt woes

THE alleged corruption and ineptitude of the country’s power bureaucracy is proving very costly. New official data...
Reproductive health
21 May, 2024

Reproductive health

IT is naïve to imagine that reproductive healthcare counts in Pakistan, where women from low-income groups and ...