The James Webb Telescope Explained

James Webb Telescope Explained

 James Webb Telescope Explained

The James Webb Space Telescope, named after the second administrator of NASA, was originally going to be called Next Generation Space Telescope (James Webb Telescope Explained). The telescope will be a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.

It is planned to replace it at the L2 point, 1 million mi (1.5 million km) away from Earth in a halo orbit. With its 6.5 meter diameter mirror and revolutionary technologies it will help solve mysteries beyond our solar system while peering back billions of years in time.

It should provide information about the formation of stars and galaxies from shortly after the Big Bang throughout our universe’s history, as well as contributing significantly to studies of potential habitats for life outside Earth by looking for water and carbon dioxide on rocky planets as small as super-Earths that could support liquid water and also enable spectroscopic investigations involving several types of measurements using cutting edge technology like coronagraphs.

The James Webb Telescope explained team has completed a mission that no one has ever tried before – they folded the telescope and then re-deployed to its final destination.

The successful completion of all of the telescope’s deployments is historic, said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb program director at NASA Headquarters. This is the first time a NASA-led mission has ever attempted to complete a complex sequence to unfold an observatory in space – a remarkable feat for our team, NASA, and the world.

In late January, the team fired up Webb’s thrusters and inserted the space telescope into orbit around the Sun at the second Lagrange point, or L2, its final destination, nearly 1 million miles from Earth and approximately four times farther away than our moon.

What is the James Webb Space Telescope

James Webb Telescope Explained

The James Webb Space Telescope (James Webb Telescope Explained) is a big telescope that orbits the Sun 1 million miles away from Earth. The JWST’s mission is to observe the infrared energy coming from cosmic entities like our galaxy or neighboring galaxies, and even more interestingly will be able to search for distant planets by locating their stars and analyzing their spectrums.

Here are some fun facts about the James Webb Space Telescope:

It is very, very big

James Webb Space Telescope

The Webb telescope is both tall and hefty. It measures about the height of a three-story building and the length of a tennis court. That’s the big bulky size it needs to be for its scientific purposes. When in flight, the telescope folds up like an origami crane in order to fit inside the rocket that launches it through space – but once it’s there, the telescope then unfolds like modern man’s version of an origami crane.

It can see through dust clouds

It can see through dust clouds

The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to “see” with infrared light, which is energy we can’t see but that firemen and bats do. Of course, one reason they’re so good at it is because they have large eyeballs filled with liquid.

Firemen use instruments that detect infrared energy to find people since the materials where people hide from the fire- smoke and darkness- also block visible light. Because telescopes in space don’t have to deal with this pesky atmosphere(James Webb Telescope Explained), their lenses can be very big, like on the Space Shuttle’s cameras.

A bigger lens = more power! So the Webb Telescope will not only “see” what we cannot see with our eyes due to distance or other obstructions, it can theoretically look back across time as well by detecting ancient galaxies that shifted into infrared as they moved away from us billions of years ago while looking at time long past… maybe even before Webb was born?

It wears a “hat” to help block heat and light from the Sun

When working on the Webb telescope, we needed to be sure it could withstand a lot of heat. Think about how much you have to protect your face from the sun if your skin is too sensitive for sun exposure. This can happen during construction, for example.

The method we used was to basically create a hat for Webb out of reflective material so that it (and its tubular structures) would not overheat. The thing is that the heat difference between the side facing the Sun and the part not facing it is almost 800 degrees.

It uses giant, gold-coated mirrors to see the universe

It uses giant, gold-coated mirrors to see the universe

Looking through the scope of the Webb telescope at stars and other distant galaxies is like looking into a time machine. It’s not only because you’re able to look back into space but also because you can almost immediately see how star formations and galaxies have changed over time.

The different layers of this telescope mirror are crucial especially since they are unpolluted by any gases, dust or other accidental matter in outer space that would otherwise interfere with the sharpness of your chronicle.

In fact, by being at a distance from earth, it almost seems that there is no atmosphere which means even sharper vision for these telescopes which means clearer images especially in deep-space exploration.

How does the James Webb Telescope work simple

Webb will use infrared light, which cannot be perceived by the human eye, to study every phase in cosmic history. The infrared telescope’s four scientific instruments are specifically designed (James Webb Telescope Explained) to capture infrared light, and it has the capability of peering through cosmic dust to study colder or very distant objects.

Mission objectives

Webb is designed to:

  • observe farther into the universe than ever before
  • search for the first stars and galaxies created after the Big Bang
  • better understand how planets, stars and galaxies are born and evolve over time
  • explore distant worlds and study our solar system
  • determine the potential for life on planets around other stars

About the telescope

Webb may be the result of over two decades of planning and development, however it is still only the result of one man’s dream.

Mirror diameter 6.5 m
Mirror collecting area 25 
Sunshield dimensions 21.2 m × 14.6 m
Height (deployed) 12 m
Launch mass 6,500 kg
Launch vehicle Ariane 5 rocket
Launch site Kourou, French Guiana
Solar array power 2,000 W
Operating temperature -233.2 °C
Wavelength coverage Near- and mid-infrared light
  • Golden mirror: Webb’s primary mirror is 6.5 metres wide, making Webb the largest space-based telescope ever built. The mirror is made up of 18 hexagonal gold-coated beryllium segments that can be adjusted individually.
  • Sunshield: To protect itself from the Sun’s heat, Webb has a tennis court-sized sunshield. One of Webb’s instruments also has a refrigeration system to keep it cool, because the heat from the Sun (and Webb’s own instruments) would otherwise interfere with the telescope’s observations.
  • Deployment: Webb is so large that it needed to be folded up like a piece of origami to fit into the Ariane 5 rocket that launched it into space. It will take Webb about two weeks to fully unfold, and two more weeks to travel to its final destination.
  • Instruments: In addition to the Canadian-made scientific instrument NIRISS, the Webb Telescope houses three other partner-contributed scientific instruments: NIRCam (NASA), NIRSpec (European Space Agency(James Webb Telescope Explained) and MIRI (NASA/ESA).
  • High-frequency radio transmitter: Large radio antennas spread out around the globe will receive Webb’s transmitter signals and forward them to the Webb Science and Operation Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, USA.

James Webb Space Telescope Vs Hubble Space Telescope; How Do They Compare?

James Webb Space Telescope Vs Hubble Space Telescope

The James Webb telescope explained is the most capable space telescope ever designed. Although there are many ground-based observatories, the scientific community still often relies on the Hubble when seeking out discoveries in our universe.

The Hubble Space Telescope, however, is now over three decades old and it’s deeply time to think about a new way of doing things; one that enables us to uncover even more secrets of just how unique our universe really is.

To put this into perspective, let’s take a closer look to see what sets Webb apart from other telescopes and which keeps him in the forefront of exploration.


The Hubble Space Telescope is a famous space observatory hosted and operated by NASA. Over the course of its thirty-year career, it has made hundreds of observations that have been used to determine things such as certain elements essential to life in various parts of the universe including hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and many other compounds.

The James Webb telescope explained, set to launch at 11:03 AM EST on December 24th will be the successor to the Hubble Telescope. This new device comes at a time when there is renewed interest in astronomy due to the recent discovery of planets outside our solar system.

Although it will be worth mentioning that even with Webb’s development over several decades at a cost exceeding $10 billion dollars and extensive testing prior to launch, these are still extremely expensive endeavors for about ten years only or even more than twenty years according to analysts earlier this year at an industry conference in Baltimore.



The 21-foot long mirror on the Webb telescope is 3.5 times bigger than the 8-foot Hubble mirror, so it might just be the perfect tool to get us closer than we’ve ever been to finding out what really lurks behind dark matter and dark energy…and hopefully answering questions about life. While the Hubble is a little small for scientific research, the Webb telescope will be roughly three times as wide as a tennis court – while still folding up into an area smaller than even a school bus.



Although the Hubble telescope and the James Webb telescope explained are both classified as telescopes, they both serve different purposes. As can be seen from their orbits, Hubble orbits the Earth relatively closer than Webb but because it has been decided that Webb will be sent 1.5 million kilometres away at a location called the second Lagrange point or L2, it shows that although Webb is not as close as Hubble, it will be further out for better observation of space without interference from factors such as Earth’s atmosphere.

Area of expertise

Hubble has been designed to look at Ultraviolet, visible and near infrared wavelength. Near infrared is the type of light emitted by atoms just before they release bound energy as radiation. Since the radiation we get from distant galaxies travels billions of light years all the way to us, this long passage through space lets us see how galaxies looked billions of years ago so often astronomers use far infrared to peer into the past.

Later this information will help astronomers determine what color a galaxy is today (and thus how much new star formation it still hosts). This information can also be used to find satellite galaxies around our own Milky Way, and even dark matter lurking in between distant stars!


James Webb Telescope explained will primarily observe in the infrared and will have four main instruments which will use different wavelengths of infrared light between 0.6m to 28m. Infrared astronomy is a branch of astronomy that uses electromagnetic radiation in the infrared spectrum.

Typically, a pass band or band pass of 5-1000µm is used to study sources such as interstellar ices, dust clouds and hot planetary systems. Astronomers typically collect radiation at wavelengths around 100µm (1 micrometre).

This means that Webb will work primarily in the infrared range which is longer than 1 metre with some capability in the visible range – especially red and up to yellow range.

Hubble has infrared capabilities between 0.8 and 2.5 microns, but its primary observations are in the ultraviolet and visible spectrums between 0.1 and 0.8 microns.

What is the James Webb Space Telescope doing right now

Incredible, within just a few days Webb has already covered 1/3 of its journey! Just the other day it was about 3 million miles away from Earth which may seem like a lot but actually isn’t.

Remember that this journey is around 9 million miles long . However there are plenty of obstacles along the way. The first and probably most notable obstacle is as mentioned before, Venus . It is believed that NASA places great value on all one of these milestones in our history, so it makes sense that such an occasion would not pass unnoticed.

These types of events are sure to cultivate another generation of scientists, engineers and space enthusiasts. That’s incredible considering people still wonder if the space race will continue on much longer or even slow down with time.

Bottom Line

More than 1,200 scientists, engineers, and technicians from 14 countries (and more than 29 U.S. states) have taken part in designing and building a brand-spanking new telescope called the Webb Telescope (formerly named “Next Generation Space Telescope” or “James Webb Telescope Explained”). The entire project is a joint mission for NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and Canada’s space agency.

Webb’s importance isn’t only limited to the discovery of exoplanets and new kinds of star systems; it’s effectively a barometer for understanding more about Earth.

That’s because in order to optimize Webb’s scientific functions, its primary mirrors will be as cold as can be – an astonishing (−388° Fahrenheit), but this is how we achieve our mission objectives: in exchange for keeping the mirror so cold, Webb will be able to capture infrared light and detect the collision of distant star systems that would otherwise go unnoticed by other telescopes equipped with higher power imagers.

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