Though the launch won’t be until at least October, NASA has already picked a spot for the $10 billion Hubble successor to study — and it’s only about 63 light-years from Earth.
The US space agency said the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will study Beta Pictoris, a “young planetary system” with at least two planets, several “smaller, rocky bodies” and a disk made up of dust.
The aim of the study is to better understand the dust and find out what is going on in the planetary system, which is similar to the Milky Way, as the debris disk is likely to be comets, asteroids, rocks of various sizes and lots of dust in all shapes. that revolve around the star.
A debris disk, containing comets, asteroids, rocks of various sizes and lots of dust, orbits the star Beta Pictoris, which is blocked in the center of this 2012 image by a coronagraph aboard the Hubble Space Telescope.
The aim of the study is to better understand the dust and find out what is going on in the planetary system, which is similar to the Milky Way, as the debris disk is likely to be comets, asteroids, rocks of various sizes and lots of dust in all shapes. that revolve around the star
Chris Stark of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said researchers would like to know what’s inside the planetary system.
Stark said his team will use the JWST’s coronagraphs to block the star’s light and get a better view of the debris disk, where pebbles and boulders could rustle through space, triggering activity.
“We know that there are two massive planets around Beta Pictoris, and beyond that there is a belt of small bodies that collide and fragment,” Stark explained in a statement. pronunciation.
‘But what’s in between? How similar is this system to our solar system? Could dust and water ice from the outer belt eventually end up in the inner region of the system? Those are details we can tease Webb with.”
Christine Chen of the Space Telescope Science Institute, whose team will look at the spectra, said the system’s dust is important as it could help researchers understand the collisions between asteroids and comets.
“After planets, most of the mass in the Beta Pictoris system is thought to be in smaller planetesimals that we can’t directly observe,” Chen explains.
“Fortunately, we can observe the dust left behind when planetesimals collide.”
“We will analyze Webb’s spectra to map the locations of dust and gas — and find out what their detailed composition is,” Chen added. “Dust grains are ‘fingerprints’ of planetesimals that we can’t see directly and that can tell us what these planetesimals are made of and how they formed.”
Beta Pictoris is twice as massive as the Sun, but significantly younger, only 20 million years old, compared to 4.6 billion for the Sun.
The two known planets in the system are “both much more massive than Jupiter,” but it is the first system where “exocomets,” comets in other systems, have been discovered, NASA said in a statement.
“By cataloging the specifics of Beta Pictoris, the researchers will also assess how similar this system is to our solar system, which helps us understand whether the contents of our solar system are unique,” NASA added.
Researchers, including team member Isabel Rebollido, are already building models of the planetary system, including one that takes into account what they already know about it, such as radio, near-infrared, far-infrared and visible light from space and on Earth. observatories and will use JWST’s tools to get a better look at the debris disk.
“Webb is much more sensitive than any other space telescope and gives us the opportunity to look for this evidence, as well as for water vapor that we know is gas,” Rebollido said.
The James Webb telescope has a huge 21ft 4-inch mirror that was ordered to fully unfold and lock itself in place, mimicking the process that will take place in space
A NASA spokesperson told DailyMail.com last month that the launch of the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope will take place “no earlier than October 31.”
In July 2020, the launch of the telescope was postponed to October 31, 2021 from March 2021, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The launch was initially planned for 2007, but the telescope has faced a number of delays in recent years.
Some of the delays were technical issues, pushing the price of the telescope from its initial estimate of $1.6 billion to the $10 billion it currently costs.
One of the key components of the mission is the five-layer sunshade, which NASA previously said was “designed to keep Webb’s mirrors and scientific instruments cold by blocking infrared light from the Earth, moon and sun.”
Once launched into space with the Ariane 5 rocket, it will settle into space, 930,000 miles above Earth.
NASA recently unfolded the giant mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope “like a piece of origami artwork” one last time before launch later this year.
In August 2019, NASA announced that it had successfully assembled the craft, marking the biggest milestone on its long road to completion.
The JWST will provide unprecedented insight into the atmospheric composition of gas dwarf planets.
The huge telescope will be used to look back at the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago.
It will observe the sources of stars, exoplanets, as well as the moons and planets in the solar system.
In addition, it will use the most advanced technologies to make observations, including infrared light, and learn about atmospheres from target worlds that have a very different chemistry from Earth.
Earlier this year, researchers at Ohio State University said the telescope can detect a sign of life on other planets in just 60 hours.
JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE: THE NEXT GREAT ORBITAL OBSERVATORY INSTALLED TO SEARCH FOR FOREIGN LIFE
NASA and partners plan to launch their next large space telescope later this year, and it will serve as Hubble’s natural successor.
Primarily an infrared telescope, it will have a wider spectrum than Hubble and operate further from Earth, orbiting the sun, rather than orbiting the Earth.
Ohio State University research claims James Webb will have found signs of alien life on a distant world within five years of it coming online.
Graduate student Caprice Phillips calculated that after just a few orbits, it could potentially detect ammonia created by living things around gas dwarf planets.
The James Webb telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.
The telescope will be used to look back at the first galaxies born in the early Universe more than 13.5 billion years ago.
It will also observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even the moons and planets of our solar system.
The James Webb telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin.
This is approximately minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).
Officials from the space agencies responsible for the telescope say the cost could exceed the $8 billion (£5.6 billion) program limit set by Congress.
NASA has already poured $7 billion (£5 billion) into the telescope since it was first proposed as a replacement for the long-running Hubble Space Telescope.
When it launches in 2021, it will be the world’s largest and most powerful telescope, able to look back 200 million years after the Big Bang.
James Webb is designed to last for five years, but NASA hopes it will continue to work for a decade or more, although it cannot be easily repaired due to its distance from Earth.
It is 66 ft by 46 ft and will operate at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point about 930,000 miles from Earth — nearly four times farther away than the Moon.
The telescope will be launched on a European workhorse Ariane-5 rocket at the end of October 2021, the first observations are expected in 2022.