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World’s most powerful telescope planned to debut in 2018

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NASA is on track to launch the biggest telescope the world has ever seen, and it
will give scientists the opportunity to ‘see’ cosmic events that
occurred 13.5 billion years ago – just 220 million years following the
Big Bang. Named the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), it will be 100
times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomers hope the telescope will help further the search for alien life.

“What the Webb will really be doing is looking at the first galaxies of the Universe,” project scientist Mark Clampin said in press at
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in the US this week. “We will also
be able, with these capabilities, to look in very dark parts of the
universe where stars are being born.”

The space telescope will weigh 6.4 tons.
JWST’s main mirror will be 21ft (6.5 metres) in diameter, three times as
large as Hubble’s. It will have 70 times its light-gathering capacity. It will include four cameras and spectrometers,
the latter of which is designed to take in light, break it down into
its spectral components, and digitise the signal as a function of a
wavelength for scientists to interpret. 

“We have sensors on
board, equipment on board that will enable us to study the atmosphere of
exoplanets spectroscopically, so we will be able to understand the
composition of those atmospheres,” Matt Greenhouse, a JWST project
scientist, told the press. “We can make big progress in the search for life.”

Unlike
the Hubble Space Telescope, which circles the Earth, the JWST will go
even further, to a place called L2, for LaGrange Point, 930,000 miles
(1.5 million km) away in space.

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That
distance will keep the telescope cold, prevent it from being blinded by
its own infra-red light and shelter it from radiation.
‘It
will follow the Earth around the sun over the course of the year. So
it’s in a sun center orbit instead of an Earth center orbit,’ said
Greenhouse.”Just as Hubble rewrote all the textbooks, Webb will rewrite [them] again.” 
This whole new massive telescope is expected to launch in October 2018.
Sources: Dailymail, AFP

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