In our Fun Finds Friday posts, I share quirky news items. I especially enjoy sharing amazing feats of engineering and manufacturing.
Today, I’m focused on NASA’s long-awaited successor to the Hubble—the James Webb Space Telescope. If all goes as planned, the James Webb telescope will launch about a million miles into space in December of this year, 2021.
The major of benefit of Webb over Hubble will be seeing more—more stars, more distant objects, more solar systems.
The Webb telescope will capture more space data in two ways:
The collection area for Webb is 6.25 times greater than Hubble’s. See a video comparing the light-collecting mirrors of the Hubble and the James Webb.
Because light travels relatively slowly, space telescopes give us a view back into time. The Webb will be able to show us the first galaxies that formed in the Universe!
The Webb also sports a much larger sunshield than Hubble. In fact, the Webb sunshield measures 22 meters by 12 meters, or about the size of a tennis court.
Getting this sunshield into space required epic ingenuity.
Webb manufacturer Northrop Grumman put it this way: “Imagine having to squeeze an enormous mirror and a sunshield that’s the size of a tennis court into a rocket ship.”
Once the rocket reaches outer space, the telescope will be pulled out and slowly unfold.
According to Marc Roth, Senior Northrop Grumman Engineer, “The membrane tensioning system pulls and tensions each layer of the sunshield, physically separating the five layers from the bottom up in a synchronized sequence. The sunshield keeps Webb cold and stable and is just one of the examples of complex engineering on this incredible observatory.”
Inspiring, right? I am looking forward to the launch and unfolding. Let’s hope we will soon have images of the first stars formed in the Universe!
If you have an inspiring story to share, get in touch!
Image credit: Northrop Grumman