Behold the gold! The massive, 18-segment primary mirror of our James Webb Space Telescope (@NASAWebb) will allow us to see out to 13 billion years of cosmic time. Spying some of the very first luminous objects formed in the universe, Webb will not only change what we know…but will change how we think about ourselves.
Ahead of its launch next year, the telescope is being put to the test! In order to ensure it can withstand the extreme environment of space, Webb was put into a cryogenic chamber at our Johnson Space Center (@NASAJohnson) for about 100 days. These cryogenic tests, performed in a massive thermal vacuum chamber that is capable of reaching temperatures of -440°F/-262°C, mimic the extreme coldness of space. Once in space, Webb will travel more than 1 million miles from Earth, where it will need to operate perfectly in theses frigid conditions.
One of the main science goals of Webb is to look back through time when galaxies were young. This giant, gold-plated primary mirror will allow Webb to do just that. Check out the people in the picture for scale!
A telescope’s sensitivity, or how much detail it can see, is directly related to the size of the mirror area that collects light from the objects being observed. A larger area collects more light, just like a larger bucket collects more water in a rain shower. A mirror the size of Webb’s has never before been launched into space! Why is the mirror gold? Gold improves the mirror's reflection of infrared light.
Learn more about this mission at nasa.gov/webb.
Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
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