James Webb Telescope prepares to provide new perspective from space

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FLORIDA (NewsNation Now) — The James Webb Telescope opened its mirrors for what’s expected to be the final time on Earth on Tuesday. 

According to NASA, “The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. The telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in 2021.”

Lee Feinberg is the Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb. He said the telescope will head orbit the earth about 1 million miles away.

“The reason this telescope is going so far away from Earth is that we put up a large sunshield, it’s actually five membrane layers that are each about the size of a tennis court, just to cool the telescope down,” explained Feinberg.

Tuesday when the mirrors opened for the final time on Earth, it was a special moment for Feinberg.

“I think about all the people who have worked on this, because, you know, I’ve been on this almost 20 years, and I’ve worked with literally hundreds of people all over the United States,” said Feinberg. “I should say that the telescope itself in the primary mirror was built completely in this country had from coast to coast, north to south states contributed different things.

“And I think about all those people who work long hours to help make the mirrors who helped build the actuators behind the mirrors, who built the structure behind it. The people who mined the beryllium, and mines in Utah, for example, and the people who machined it in Alabama, I think about all those people who contributed to this, and that it’s all come together. And it reminds me the kinds of things our country can do when people work together. It’s really a proud moment.”

Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb

After the October launch, the Webb and the Hubble Telescopes will work together, but these two are quite different according to Feinberg who has worked on both. 

“Hubble was a 2.4-meter diameter telescope, and Webb is six and a half meters. And Webb is an infrared telescope, which means it sees light that Hubble cannot see. But what comes with being an infrared telescope means that it’s, it’s a cool telescope will actually run at minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit,” stated Feinberg. “And so it’s much larger and much colder than then the Hubble, and it actually has to unfold.  

Feinberg discussed what the Webb could capture. 

“The really amazing thing about Webb is every time we point it somewhere in the universe, we’re going to learn things that we don’t know, because we’ve never had a telescope this powerful, that can see these wavelengths of light with a sensitivity. And so, you know, every time we point it somewhere, it’s like a whole new mission. And we may learn lots of things about the universe that we didn’t know. The most exciting thing about it is the unknown, you know, and discovery. It’s kind of like, you know, Columbus going across the ocean.”

More information on the Webb telescope

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