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The James Webb Telescope | The Planetary Society

September 24, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale, submitted by Jane Beseda]

What has one gold-coated eye 21.3 feet across, sees in the infra-red, comes with its own sunshade the size of a tennis court, and will soon move to its new home at Lagrangian Point Two, 932,000 miles away? Betcha can’t guess!

I’m not telling. You’ll have to go to the linked article to find out.

ScreenShot from Planetary Society article

From the article:

Six months of terror
After Webb launches, it will take roughly 180 days for the telescope to travel to its new home in space, unfold its sunshield and mirror, deploy its solar arrays, position its antenna and run through a long list of commissioning tasks before the science starts. In homage to trepidation felt by Mars rover landing teams, Webb’s team has referred to this process as “six months of terror.”

For Stiavelli, launch day will be nerve-racking as he watches his life’s work blast into space atop what’s essentially a controlled explosion. But what really keeps him up at night is thinking about the thruster burns Webb must execute to arrive safely at L2. Hammel says her most terrifying moment will be the deployment of Webb’s secondary mirror.

“If the sunshield doesn’t fully deploy, it will really wreck our midinfrared observations, but maybe we can still do near-infrared. If the mirror doesn’t fully open and you only have the center section, you lose sensitivity, but it could still function,” she says. “However, if the secondary mirror doesn’t deploy, you have no light through the telescope, and the mission is over. To me, that will be the most frightening moment.”

It will take better photos of nice places like Centaurus A, the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky and a mere thirteen million light years away. (ScreenShot from Planetary Society article)
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