Вадим Дудченко
Администратор портала

The James Webb Space Telescope, an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), launched at 7:20 a.m. EST (13:20 CET) on December 25, 2021, on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, South America. Following launch and separation from the rocket, Webb’s mission operations center in Baltimore, the United States, confirmed the spacecraft deployed its solar array and is in good condition, marking the launch a success. In the coming month, Webb will travel to its destination: the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system (L2).

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on December 25, 2021, on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe. Image credit: ESA / CNES / Arianespace.

The James Webb Space Telescope, a major space observatory often presented as the successor to the very successful NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is designed to answer fundamental questions about the Universe.

It honors NASA’s second administrator, James E. Webb, who headed the agency during part of the Apollo era, from February 1961 to October 1968.

With 100 times more sensitivity than Hubble, the telescope can detect infrared light generated by galaxies as they formed more than 13.5 billion years ago, in the aftermath of the Big Bang.

It will see farther into our origins — from the Universe’s first galaxies, to the birth of stars and exoplanets, to exoplanets with the potential for life. Closer to home, Webb will also look at our own Solar System.

The telescope is an incredible feat of space engineering. In order to observe at infrared wavelengths, it is kept permanently shaded from solar radiation by a giant, five-layered sunshield. At 22 x 12 m (72 x 39 feet), this is about the size of a tennis court.

The sunshield will keep the telescope in perpetual shadow for operations at minus 233 degrees Celsius (minus 387.4 degrees Fahrenheit), to prevent the telescope’s own infrared emission from overwhelming the signals from the astronomical targets. Its mid-infrared instrument MIRI will be further cooled to minus 266 degrees Celsius (minus 446.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

Webb’s primary mirror is made of 18 hexagonal-shaped mirror segments, each 1.32 m (4.3 feet) in diameter and weighing approximately 20 kg.

The total diameter of Webb’s primary mirror spans 6.5 m (21.3 feet), which is so large that it has to be carefully folded into the rocket’s fairing for launch.

Each of the telescope’s mirrors is covered in a microscopically thin layer of gold, which optimizes them for reflecting infrared light.

The telescope also hosts a convex secondary mirror that is 0.74 m (2.4 feet) in diameter. This is the second surface the light from the cosmos hits on its route into the telescope.

An artist’s impression of the James Webb Space Telescope. Image credit: ESA.

“The James Webb Space Telescope represents the ambition that NASA and our partners maintain to propel us forward into the future,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson.

“The promise of Webb is not what we know we will discover; it’s what we don’t yet understand or can’t yet fathom about our Universe. I can’t wait to see what it uncovers!”

“Launching Webb is a huge celebration of the international collaboration that made this next-generation mission possible,” said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.

“I want to thank everyone involved with the design, construction, and launch of this ambitious telescope, for making this day a reality. We are close to receiving Webb’s new view of the Universe and the exciting scientific discoveries that it will make.”

“CSA is proud to have contributed critical instruments to this large‑scale international partnership as part of a global effort to spur the next great scientific leap,” said CSA President Lisa Campbell.

“Canadian astronomers are excited to use Webb’s data and benefit from the tremendous science opportunities offered by this one-of-a-kind observatory.”

“I want to congratulate the team on this incredible achievement — Webb’s launch marks a significant moment not only for NASA, but for thousands of people worldwide who dedicated their time and talent to this mission over the years,” said Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

“Webb’s scientific promise is now closer than it ever has been. We are poised on the edge of a truly exciting time of discovery, of things we’ve never before seen or imagined.”

“I am very happy and proud that the versatility and reliability of Ariane 5 have enabled the launch of such ground-breaking mission,” said Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA Director of Space Transportation.

“This is a tribute to the skill and dedication of all the teams involved.”

In the month after liftoff, the James Webb Space Telescope will unfold like a ‘transformer’ in space. Image credit: ESA.

Webb had to be carefully folded into the specially adapted Ariane 5 fairing for launch, which jettisoned away about 3 minutes after liftoff.

Ariane 5 then began a special roll maneuver to protect Webb from the Sun’s radiation. After 27 minutes the telescope was released and the upper stage boosted away.

Now in space and on its way to L2 (approximately 1.5 million km, or 0.93 million miles, from Earth), Webb will undergo a complex unfolding sequence.

In the months after, the instruments will be turned on and their capabilities tested.

After half a year in space, Webb will start its routine science observations.

“The idea for Webb started with the dream of astronomers to observe the birth of the first galaxies in the early Universe, but the telescope will be able to do so much more than everyone had hoped for,” said Dr. Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science.

“It is down to the excellence of the European industry and scientific community that the development of these complex instruments was made possible.”

“We are now looking forward to the beautiful images and spectra that Webb will obtain,” said ESA Webb project scientist Dr. Antonella Nota.

“The European astronomical community is excited to see the results of the 33% available observing time they competitively won for Webb’s first year.”

“The launch of the Webb Space Telescope is a pivotal moment — this is just the beginning for the Webb mission,” said Dr. Gregory Robinson, Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters.

“Now we will watch Webb’s highly anticipated and critical 29 days on the edge.”

“When the spacecraft unfurls in space, Webb will undergo the most difficult and complex deployment sequence ever attempted in space.”

“Once commissioning is complete, we will see awe-inspiring images that will capture our imagination.”


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