James Webb Space Telescope launch postponed again: Now it's Christmas Day |  Science

James Webb Space Telescope launch postponed again: Now it’s Christmas Day | Science

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which succeeded Hubble, has been postponed again. NASA reports that the telescope will now travel to space on Christmas Day at the earliest. Bad weather conditions at the launch site in French Guiana make it extremely dangerous for Friday’s launch.




This is the second postponement in a short time. Originally, the launch was supposed to take place on Wednesday, but due to technical issues, it was moved to Friday. According to the current schedule, James Webb will go live on Saturday 25 December between 13:20 and 13:52 (Dutch time).

The launch team will consider the new weather forecast Thursday evening. If things are not favorable again, James Webb’s launch can be rescheduled again.

Effects of the beginning of the universe

James Webb will be the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope. The new telescope is larger and sharper, and therefore should be able to see things that Hubble had not previously discovered. De Webb will study all phases of cosmic history, including the traces of the beginning of the universe: the Big Bang.

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The James Webb Space Telescope goes deeper into space than the Hubble telescope. © ANP

The instrument is the first capable of detecting the oldest galaxy – and perhaps even some of the first exploding stars. These arose about 13.5 billion years ago. The ultraviolet light emitted by those objects changes from ultraviolet to infrared as the universe expands. This is because the light waves are actually “stretched” as the light sources are moving away from us. Webb is designed to perceive this light with very high accuracy and sensitivity – higher than any device to date.

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Giant high-tech origami

James Webb also searches for planets where life is possible. To this end, the telescope monitors planets located in the “habitable” zone of their sun. This is the region where planets could theoretically have liquid water on their surfaces. Webb can determine if and where signs of livability are present.

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James Webb Space Telescope mirror.  It consists of eighteen octagons.
James Webb Space Telescope mirror. It consists of eighteen octagons. © AP

The telescope will be 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 the size of a tennis court, and therefore must be folded before launch – otherwise it will not fit the rocket, Ariane 5. For example, the telescope’s mirror is divided into eighteen octagons, which can be opened.

Once the vehicle is in space, the parts are expanded. “Like giant high-tech origami,” NASA said. This process will take approximately two weeks.

often delay

The James Webb launch was a long time coming. The telescope has been in development since 1996. NASA had already planned to launch it in 2011. But each time there was a technical problem that required delays, from loose screws to using the wrong solvent when cleaning parts. So also in 2013, 2018, 2019, May 2020 and Spring 2021, the planned launch has been cancelled.

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

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