'What an amazing milestone': Nasa's James Webb telescope fully deployed in space

Published January 8, 2022
In this photo released by Nasa, engineering teams at Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Centre at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland monitor progress as the observatory’s second primary mirror wing rotates into position. — AFP
In this photo released by Nasa, engineering teams at Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Centre at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland monitor progress as the observatory’s second primary mirror wing rotates into position. — AFP
In this photo released by Nasa, engineering teams celebrate at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland as the second primary mirror wing of Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope unfolds, before beginning the process of latching the mirror wing into place. — AFP
In this photo released by Nasa, engineering teams celebrate at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland as the second primary mirror wing of Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope unfolds, before beginning the process of latching the mirror wing into place. — AFP

The James Webb Space Telescope completed its two-week-long deployment phase on Saturday, unfolding the final mirror panel as it readies to study every phase of cosmic history.

Engineering teams cheered back at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) announced on Twitter that the final wing was deployed.

“I'm emotional about it — what an amazing milestone,” Thomas Zurbuchen, a senior Nasa engineer, said during the live video feed as stargazers worldwide celebrated.

Because the telescope was too large to fit into a rocket's nose cone in its operational configuration, it was transported folded-up.

Unfurling has been a complex and challenging task — the most daunting such project ever attempted, according to Nasa.

“We've still got work to do,” NASA said as the wing was latched into place. “When the final latch is secure, Nasa Webb will be fully unfolded in space.”

The most powerful space telescope ever built and the successor to Hubble, Webb blasted off in an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana on December 25, and is heading to its orbital point, 1.5 million kilometres from Earth.

Though Webb will reach its space destination, known as the second Lagrange point, in a matter of weeks, it still has around another five and a half months of setup to go.

Next steps include aligning the telescope's optics and calibrating its scientific instruments.

Far reaches of the Universe

Its infrared technology will allow it to see the first stars and galaxies that formed 13.5 billion years ago, giving astronomers new insight into the earliest epoch of the Universe.

Earlier this week, the telescope deployed its five-layered sunshield — a 70-foot-long, kite-shaped apparatus that acts like a parasol, ensuring Webb's instruments are kept in the shade so they can detect faint infrared signals from the far reaches of the Universe.

The sunshield will be permanently positioned between the telescope and the Sun, Earth and Moon, with the Sun-facing side built to withstand 230 degrees Fahrenheit (110 degrees Celsius).

Read: Most powerful ever built — exploring Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope

Visible and ultraviolet light emitted by the very first luminous objects has been stretched by the Universe's expansion, and arrives today in the form of infrared, which Webb is equipped to detect with unprecedented clarity.

Its mission also includes the study of distant planets to determine their origin, evolution, and habitability.

The Nasa telescope blog said Saturday's procedure was “the last of the major deployments on the observatory.”

“Its completion will set the stage for the remaining five and a half months of commissioning, which consist of settling into stable operating temperature, aligning the mirrors, and calibrating the science instruments. “

Opinion

Editorial

Miles to go
Updated 14 Jul, 2024

Miles to go

Some reforms agreed with the Fund are going to seriously impact economic growth and fresh investments, at least in the short term.
Iddat ruling
14 Jul, 2024

Iddat ruling

IT was a needless, despicable spectacle which only ended up uniting both conservatives and progressives in ...
Cricket shake-up
14 Jul, 2024

Cricket shake-up

SOMEONE had to take the blame and bear the brunt of the fallout from Pakistan’s disastrous showing at the T20 ...
Injustice undone
Updated 13 Jul, 2024

Injustice undone

The SC verdict is a stunning reversal of fortunes for a party that was, both before and after general elections, being treated as a defunct entity.
Looming flour shortage
13 Jul, 2024

Looming flour shortage

FOR once, it is hard to argue against the reason that compelled flour mills to call a nationwide strike from...
Same old script
13 Jul, 2024

Same old script

WHEN it comes to the troubling issue of enforced disappearances/ missing persons — either Baloch or belonging to...