by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com
NASA has set a luanch date for their newest, most powerful telescope. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be launched into space on December 18 aboard a European Space Agency (ESA) Ariane 5 rocket, reports Abigail Beall for New Scientist.
The orbiting infrared observatory will be the largest telescope ever launched into space. As the Hubble Space Telescope’s successor, JWST is designed to complement and expand Hubble’s discoveries with its extended wavelength coverage and improved light sensitivity, NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce. Once launched into space, the observatory will travel to a location one million miles from Earth. From there, it will help astronomers understand how young galaxies form, peer through clouds to examine how stars take shape, study exoplanets, and observe nearby celestial objects, including planets within our own solar system, reports New Scientist.
“Webb will be able to see galaxies as they looked a couple hundred million years after the Big Bang,” NASA astrophysicist Jane Rigby tells NPR.
First envisioned in 1996, construction of the enormous space observatory has cost a total of $10 billion. A team of 1,200 scientists, technicians, and engineers from 14 countries and more than 28 U.S. states have worked on the telescope in the past 25 years.