One small step for man and one big giant leap for the massive, state-of-the-art telescope, which is sure to overshadow Hubble, without breaking a sweat. The James Webb telescope gets its last mirror installed, bringing the whole shebang even closer towards the day it will be able to gaze into the void of space.
According to NASA, and especially to the engineers working on the James Webb project, the team managed to outfit the primary mirror of the giant telescope with its last segment. And, if everything checks out ok, the gargantuan telescope will be space-ready in October 2018.
In regard to the telescope’s primary mirror, let’s start talking big. The primary mirror of the telescope has approximately 21 feet in diameter. Moreover, the space telescope also features a system comprised of 3 large mirrors, each of them housing 18 individual hexagonal segments.
These segments are roughly the size of a coffee table, and each of them weight approximately 80 pounds or 36 kilograms. The James Webb deeps space telescope is by far the largest star gazing device ever constructed by mankind. Basically, this new and upgraded eyepiece will make Hubble look like it’s playing for the junior league.
In order to mount the 80-pound mirror segments, the technicians working on a project used a robotic arm. That way, they wanted to make sure that all the segments are fashioned in place and that the mirror is calibrated.
As stated before, this is just one of the three mirror James Webb has received. It would seem that the whole shebang is currently the size of a small football field. All the components used to construct the deep space telescope have special properties, in order to ensure that the readings taken by the telescope’s instruments are correct.
For example, the honeycomb-like mirrors are made from a beryllium alloy which received several layers of gold coating.
The James Webb telescope gets its last mirror installed on Wednesday and all the tests performed by ground control look just fine. If all goes well, the giant eyepiece will launch into space by the end of 2018.
But there is more to it than it meets the eye. The state-of-the-art telescope is outfitted with, among others, a near-infrared spectrometer. The scientists will use this device in order to study the infrared radiation emitted from high-redshift galaxies and from dust disks.
The telescope also received a prime hull, which is able to maintain its internal temperature lower than -220 degrees Celsius. The hunt is on and space awaits us!