The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will orbit the sun, a million miles away from Earth at the second Lagrange point
NASA successfully launched the James Webb Space Telescope on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, South America, on Christmas Day.
It is NASA’s largest and most powerful space science telescope ever constructed. The mission encountered many hurdles and delays due to the extraordinary challenges owing to the JWST’s enormous size and operating temperature.
The Webb telescope started its journey away from the Earth to reach the orbit of the second Lagrange point (L2), approximately 1.5 million kilometers (1 million miles) away.
L2 is a location in space where the gravitational forces of the Sun and Earth are balanced by the orbital motion required for a spacecraft to move with them. This position also reduces the fuel needed for a spacecraft to remain in position. In addition, orbiting in L2 will keep the telescope protected from the light and heat of the Sun and Earth (and Moon) and allows for continuous communications with Earth.
It will take Webb about a month to reach L2. During this time, it will undergo unfolding, telescope deployment, cooldown, instrument turn-on, and finally insertion into L2 orbit. In the following months, up to 6 months, it will undergo other system checks and calibrations after which it finally begin its scientific observations.
Watch here to view the animation of The James Webb Space Telescope’s Orbit.
Webb is the scientific successor to Hubble. The Hubble telescope focused on capturing the universe in visible and ultraviolet light; however, Webb will focus on capturing near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths, which will make it capable of viewing distant objects. Webb will capture images of the universe 13.5 billion years ago, a few million years after the big bang. The mission duration will last from 5 to 10 years.