Corrections & Clarifications: A previous version of this story misstated the distance the Webb telescope will travel.
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Hey there, listeners. It’s Mike Snider here. Welcome back to Talking Tech. Brett Molina is out today. I’m not sure if you know this, but there’s a Christmas present we all got this year, but we won’t get to use it until the summer. But it’s a gift that will keep on giving for a decade at least. I’m talking about the James Webb telescope, which launched on Christmas Day from South America.
If you remember the Hubble telescope, which was launched in 1990 and is still an operation. Well, the Webb telescope is meant to be its successor. This telescope is about 100 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope. It’s called the Webb telescope because it’s named after James E. Webb, who was the administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968. Work began on the telescope 25 years ago. And it has cost NASA $10 billion. The Canadian space agency and European space agency assisted NASA on the project.
In its first month in flight, the telescope and its spacecraft will travel past the moon, one million miles away where it will orbit the sun. During that time, the telescope and its apparatus will open up. Hundreds of parts are involved. Most prominent is its 21 foot primary mirror, which is made up of 18 head hexagonal shaped gold coated tiles. It will unfurl to what our colleague Emre Kelly at Florida Today described as its sunflower like shape.
The telescope and its spacecraft is protected by a 70 foot sun shield, which blocks sunlight, infrared light and heat of 230 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other side of the spacecraft, the temperature is more than 390 degrees below zero. The telescope needs to be kept this cold for it to function. Two weeks after launch, the telescope will be fully deployed. And about one month after launch, it will reach its orbit. Then begins five months of calibration and alignment in getting the Webb telescope ready to go to work.
“The goal is to capture imagery of the earliest stages of the universe, more than 13 billion years ago in the aftermath of the Big Bang,” says NASA administrator and former US Senator from Florida, Bill Nelson, in an editorial on usatoday.com. “Put simply, it has the power to show us how our universe came to be,” he wrote. Remember those cool images we got from Hubble beginning in the 90s? Well you can expect even more from the Webb telescope, including imagery of planets we know about, such as Mars, as well as planets beyond our solar system. Those first images are due six months after launch. Christmas in July sounds good.
If you want to learn more about the Webb telescope, go to usatoday.com and search telescope. You can also follow NASA’s Twitter feed about its progress, @NASAWebb. Listeners, let’s hear from you. Have any comments, questions, or show ideas, you can find me on Twitter @MikeSnider. Please don’t forget to subscribe and rate us or leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, anywhere you get podcasts. And if you want tech news delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to the Talking Tech newsletter. It’s out every Thursday. Just go to newsletters.usatoday.com. You’ve been listening to Talking Tech. We’ll be back tomorrow with another quick hit from the world of tech.
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