Home News Science&Tech James Webb Space Telescope launch postponed again: now on Christmas Day

James Webb Space Telescope launch postponed again: now on Christmas Day

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The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble, is being postponed again. The telescope is now going into space on Christmas Day at the earliest, reports the American space agency NASA. Due to bad weather conditions at the launch site in French Guiana, it is too risky to launch on Friday.

This is the second delay in a short time. The launch was supposed to take place on Wednesday, but due to technical problems this was moved to Friday. According to the current schedule, James Webb will be airborne on Saturday 25 December between 1: 20 pm and 1: 52 pm (Swiss time).

Thursday evening, the launch team looks at the new weather forecasts. If they are unfavourable again, the launch of James Webb can be postponed again.

James Webb is to be the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope. The new telescope is bigger and sharper and should be able to see things Hubble never discovered. The Webb will study all phases of cosmic history, including traces of the beginning of the universe: the Big Bang.

the device is the first to be able to observe the earliest Galaxy – perhaps even some of the very first exploding stars. These were created about 13.5 billion years ago. The UV light emitted by these objects changes as the universe expands from uv to infrared light. That is because the light waves are actually ‘stretched’, because the sources of light are moving away from us. Webb is designed to detect this light with a very high resolution and sensitivity – higher than any device so far.

James Webb is also looking for planets where life is possible. For this purpose, the telescope observes planets that are in the ‘livable’ zone of their sun. That’s the area where planets could theoretically have liquid water on their surface. The Webb can determine if and where signs of liveability are present.

The telescope is placed in orbit around the sun, between Earth and mars, at a distance of about 1.5 million kilometers from the sun. The device is about the size of a tennis court, and therefore needs to be folded before launch – otherwise it won’t fit into the rocket, the Ariane 5. For example, the mirror of the telescope is divided into eighteen octagons, which can be unfolded.

Once the vehicle is in space, the parts are unfolded. “Like giant high-tech origami,” says NASA. That process will take about two weeks.

The launch of James Webb has taken a long time. The telescope has been in development since 1996. Nasa had planned to launch it in 2011. But each time there was a technical problem that called for postponement, from loose screws to the use of a wrong solvent when cleaning parts. In 2013, 2018, 2019, May 2020 and spring 2021, the planned launch was also cancelled.

In total, the Webb cost about 8 billion euros. The telescope is expected to be operational from June 2022.

 

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