Sunday, June 29, 2014

James Webb Space Telescope Preparing for 2018 Launch

          by Sarah Ansari-Manea

Say hello to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the world’s most powerful and advanced telescope. This successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope is a joint collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). 

The JWST design uses a long, single solar array in a “tail-dragger” configuration along with a five layer sun shield and trim tab to balance the radiation torque. The sun shield is stowed on two folding pallets (the "unitized pallet structure" as shown on the lower left), which remain with the observatory after deployment. Graphic c/o Wikipedia.

The search for the mysteries of the earliest stars and galaxies, their evolution, and life beyond Earth are only a few of the new advancements in space exploration this state of the art telescope is planning to shine new light on.

Canada’s contribution to Webb was unveiled on July 25, 2012. The two-in-one Canadian instrument is the second of the four instruments to be sent to NASA’s Goddard Space Fight Center, in Baltimore, Maryland. So far the JWST's Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS), and the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) have been received for integration into the system.

The FGS, made up of two identical cameras, is critical for the telescope’s ability to “see” where it’s going, location, direction and locate celestial points of interest. The precision and accuracy of the FGS’s guidance has an accuracy of one millionth of a degree. NIRISS gives the WEBB the ability to look back and past the glare or very bright stars, detect thin atmospheres of exoplanets, and find the earliest celestial objects in the universe.

Designed and tested by Cambridge, ON based COM DEVInternational, with contributions from the Université de Montréal and the National Research Council (NRC), the two-in-one instrument guarantees Canadian scientists and astronomer’s time on the world’s largest and most powerful telescope.

"Scientists across the world must remember when they get their data from the Webb telescope, all of those results bear the imprint of the successful hardware contribution that Canada is providing today, because none of it would be possible without the FGS's capabilities," said Dr Eric P Smith, Deputy Program Director for the Webb telescope at NASA in the July 30th, 2012 press release "Canadian Space Agency "Eyes" Hubble's Successor: Canada Delivers its Contribution to the World's Most Powerful Space Telescope."

Sarah Ansari-Manea.
The JWST is expected to launch in 2018.

Canada has made another world class contribution to space exploration, and continues to show the rest of the world that it will be there through every progressive step in discovering the mysteries of the furthest reaches of the universe.

Sarah Ansari-Manea is an aspiring astrophysicist, currently completing a specialist in physics and astronomy at the University of Toronto.

1 comment:

  1. JWST is perhaps an invaluable addition to the global astronomy toolbox, but "the world’s most powerful and advanced telescope"? Hm. The E-ELT seems more easily supported for such a claim.

    Also, my personal loyalty to the support of science is at odds with my personal ethics to honesty. The science results possible from a defect-free, perfectly performing JWST are completely out of line with the costs, encouraging fraud and waste. Granting that any funds diverted from war & killing even to science-based waste/fraud is at least a step in the right direction, the project is still troubling.

    Hubble's main value seems primarily to have been in giving us inspiring pictures and profits for private contractors, but fundamental science of import? Not so much.


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