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Artist's depiction of James Webb Space Telescope
The James Webb Space Telescope, seen here in an artist's depiction, has reached its final parking spotImage: NASA GSFC/CIL/dpa/picture alliance
ScienceGlobal issues

James Webb Space Telescope reaches final position

January 25, 2022

The world's biggest and most powerful space telescope has reached its observation destination. But there is still a way to go before the telescope can start unraveling mysteries of the universe.


The James Webb Space Telescope on Monday reached the spot 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth from where it will begin peering back to the time when the first stars and galaxies were forming 13.7 billion years ago.

The trip to the designated orbit point — more than four times further away than the moon — has taken a month.

The telescope, which was launched from French Guiana on Christmas, is now in orbit at the so-called second Lagrange point.

That is a place where the gravitational forces of the sun and Earth balance each other, meaning that the telescope needs little energy to avoid falling into the gravity well of either heavenly body.

What is the telescope's mission?

Scientists hope the telescope, which will ultimately cost some $10 billion (€8.8 billion) altogether, will make observations that can provide clues as to the origins of the universe.

The orbit of the James Webb Space Telescope
The telescope will have a view of almost half the sky at any given moment

It will also scan the atmospheres of other worlds for possible signs of life.

Before going into operation, however, the 18 hexagonal segments of the telescope's gold-coated 21-foot (6.5-meter) diameter primary mirror must be precisely aligned with one another. This will take three months to complete.

'Welcome home'

"Webb, welcome home!" said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement. "We're one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can't wait to see Webb's first new views of the universe this summer!'' he added.

NASA joined with the European and Canadian space agencies on the project to send the telescope into space, where it will be able to see farther and more clearly than when Earth's distorting atmosphere gets in the way.

The James Webb Space Telescope is one of the most expensive scientific platforms ever built, comparable to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN or the Hubble Space Telescope.

tj/rs (AP, AFP)

A new space telescope

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