Thursday, Aug 18, 2022
Focus on the big picture

Animation shows unfolding of James Webb telescope mirrors in real time

Guardian, 09 Jan 2022
The final set of mirrors on the revolutionary James Webb Space Telescope were unfolded on 8 January.

Animation based on real-time telemetry from the telescope showed a column of hexagonal mirrors unfolding and then latching into the main section of the telescope's mirrored surface.

The telescope, built to give the world its first glimpse of the universe as it existed when the earliest galaxies formed, was launched by rocket on 25 December from the north-eastern coast of South America, opening a new era of astronomy.

The new telescope's primary mirror – consisting of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal – also has a much bigger light-collecting area, enabling it to observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back into time, than Hubble or any other telescope.

Webb's instruments also make it ideal to search for evidence of potentially life-supporting atmospheres around scores of newly documented exoplanets – celestial bodies orbiting distant stars – and to observe worlds much closer to home, such as Mars and Saturn's icy moon Titan.
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