The two halves of Hubble’s $10 billion successor have finally come together after 12 years of waiting
- The two halves of the
James Webb Space Telescopehave finally been put together. Hubble Telescope's $9.7 billion successor is finally being assembled after 12 years of delays and cost overruns.
- The next step is for the engineers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to install James Webb's sunshield.
The two halves of the next-generation space telescope have come together for the first time ever — something that was scheduled to happen 12 years ago, in 2007.
"This is an exciting time to now see all Webb's parts finally joined together into a single observatory for the very first time," said Gregory Robinson, the Webb program director at NASA in a statement.
Even now, the telescope has only been connected ‘mechanically', according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Engineers with the space agency still have to connect the wires and links within the telescope electronically for it to be functional.
Why do we need a new telescope?
James Webb Space Telescope is no mere replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope but an upgrade. While Hubble captures optical and ultraviolet wavelengths, James Webb will capture the universe in infrared.
James Webb will also be able to peer back further into the universe than Hubble.
Hubble has a 2.4 meter-wide mirror is limited in the amount of light that it can capture. The James Webb Space Telescope, in contrast, has a 6.5 meter-wide mirror that can see seven times as far.
As the new telescope can capture more light, it will be better tuned to capture infrared light from the founding stars that came into being more than 13.5 billion years ago.
"The more we learn more about our universe, the more we realize that Webb is critical to answering questions we didn't even know how to ask when the spacecraft was first designed," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in a statement.
The next step for the engineers at NASA is to put together the the James Webb Space Telescope's five-layer sunshield in place.
The sunshield is an integral part of the telescope since it will protect the telescope's mirrors and scientific instruments from infrared light from the Sun.
The telescope is the size of a tennis court and will only work if it can unfurl itself in space without tearing or falling apart.
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