On Christmas day the James Webb telescope took off on its journey to a destination some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. Perched there in space, the telescope will help us uncover new information about distant planets as well as what happened at the very beginning of time.
The machine, which cost 10 billion dollars to build, has been 30 years in the making. It will replace the Hubble telescope, which has been our eye into outer space since 1990. The heart of the telescope is a golden reflector that will capture signals from stars and planets and send them back to Earth. The Webb telescope’s reflecting mirror is 6.5 metres across, almost three times wider than the one on the Hubble. This is what makes the James Webb telescope so powerful.
What will it do?
The better mirror as well as some super-sensitive instruments attached to the telescope will help astronomers look deeper into space – and thus further back in time – than ever before.
The telescope will be able to capture light from the very first stars that lit up the darkness of space when the universe began growing. Reactions in these objects caused creation of atoms of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, which are the ingredients (things required) needed for living things to evolve (develop). By looking at what happened billions of years ago, we might be able to better understand how the universe came to be the way it is. To understand how a telescope sent up in space now can actually ‘look’ at such distant events, read the infographic below.
The James Webb telescope will also be looking at distant planets to understand if they could support life in any form.
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