The world’s largest and most powerful space telescope has reached its final destination, settled into an orbit a million miles from Earth, preparing to look in time toward the dawn of the universe.
NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope was launched on Christmas Day last year on December 25 from French Guiana, after a long series of delays spanning years, in an attempt to see the early universe.
Due to its massive size, James Webb had to launch folded inside the European Ariane 5 missile.
The mirrors in the space telescope still have to be aligned precisely and the infrared detectors must be cooled enough before scientific observations can begin in June.
However, before James Webb captured and released his first star-studded image in June, astronomers were able to snap images of the space telescope from Earth.
The Rome-based Virtual Telescope Project team followed James Webb through space and found him in the Big Daughters of the Coffin (also known as “The Coffin”), a constellation of seven stars that are part of the constellation Ursa Major.
The astronomers then used a robotic telescope to take a five-minute exposure of James Webb, just when he reached his destination at Earth-sun Lagrange Point 2 or L2, about 1.5 million kilometers from our planet, a region of balanced gravity between The sun and the earth, where it will settle for a decade.
Project Director Gianluca Massi said: ‘Our robotic telescope tracks the apparent motion of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is marked with an arrow in the middle. At the time of imaging, James Webb was about 1.4 million kilometers from us and had just reached its final destination, Lagrange Point 2 (L2) in the Earth-Sun system. As seen from the Sun, the L2 point is just behind the Earth.
You don’t necessarily need a telescope to spot James Webb, since according to NASA, it might be possible to see a space observatory with binoculars if you know where to look.
“It’s close to the coffin girls’ bed (four stars in the shape of a coffin quadruple),” Lee Feinberg, eye director of the James Webb Space Telescope Observatory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, explained in a live broadcast Monday. With the naked eye, but I was told you can see it with binoculars.”
James Webb, the successor to the iconic three-decade-old Hubble Telescope, has an ambitious mission to study the early universe, seeing how fast it is now expanding and analyzing objects across the universe from galaxies to exoplanets.