Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Monday, May 14, 2007

Awesome Sight

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney, NSW


The picture above is not a Star Wars death ray but a full size model of the Webb Space Telescope.

The Webb will be replacing the Hubble in 2013. The model was recently shown at the Seattle American Astronomical Society meeting. It certainly deserves that overused adjective awesome! From the news report:

The $4.5bn (£2.3bn) telescope will take up a position some 1.5 million km (930,000 miles) from Earth.

It will measure 24m (80ft) long by 12m (40ft) high and incorporate a hexagonal mirror 6.5m (21.3ft) in diameter, almost three times the size of Hubble's.

Hubble, launched in 1990, has sent back pictures of our solar system, distant stars, and remote fledgling galaxies formed not long after the Big Bang.

But scientists say the JWST will enable them to look deeper into space and even further back at the origins of the Universe.

"Clearly we need a much bigger telescope to go back much further in time to see the very birth of the Universe," said Edward Weiler, director of Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre.

Martin Mohan of Northrop Grumman, the contractor building the telescope, said that the team was making excellent progress.

"There's engineering to do, but invention is done, more than six years ahead of launch," he said.

When ready, the JWST will be launched by a European Ariane 5 rocket. It is expected to have a 10-year lifespan.

Until then, the 17-year-old Hubble telescope will continue to do its work. Nasa plans to send astronauts on the space shuttle to service it in 2008.

The telescope will be launched in a folded form and deployed in orbit. Heres a short video on how it will be done. Lets hope it doesn't get stuck!

The NASA site is here. Via Gizmodo.