Watch the James Webb telescope drift through the abyss

Goodbye James Webb Space Telescope.
GIF: European Space Agency

On Christmas Eve, it wasn’t just Santa Claus who was about to take off on a very important flight. No, engineers from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) were preparing to launch the $ 10 billion James Webb Space Telescope into the cosmos.

The day of Christmas launch considering the new generation space telescope, already neatly folded and charge in an Ariane 5 rocket, take off from ESA launch pad near Kourou, French Guiana.

It was one of the most long-awaited moments of the telescope’s 33-year journey from its creation until the moment when it collects its first images of the cosmos.

A space rocket launches over a lake

The science of rockets.
Photo: NASA / Bill Ingalls

And soon after being put into orbit aboard the Ariane 5 rocket, JWST was released into the void of space to undertake most of its journey on its own.

Now ESA has released a slightly hypnotic video of the telescope’s first foray into space. And while it marks the craft’s first steps under its own might, it’s also the last time we’ll see the craft as it embarks on its 10-year mission.

The video shows when the multibillion-dollar space telescope separated from the rocket. It also shows the solar panel deploying as the telescope sparkles in the sunlight.

These on-board solar panels will help propel the space telescope to its destination, a million kilometers from Earth.

As Webb glistens in the sun, the images offer one last majestic glimpse of the craft, which was created to examine the beginnings of the universe.

And, while it’s all very big and deep, I can’t help but think how comfortable that shot would be in a Chris Nolan movie or a Portishead clip. Take a look at it above and let me know if you’re ok with it.

But the JWST has come a long way since this video was taken. It is now approaching its final destination in space and engineers have begun to deploy various elements of the craft.

This week, scientists are on edge like JWST tennis court sized sun shades have been deployed. The shields were designed to protect the telescope’s mirrors and cameras from heat, glare, and radiation from the sun and other planets.

Artist's impression of the James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope is coming to a cosmos near you.
Drawing: European Space Agency

Once successfully deployed, the engineers then began to deploy the secondary mirrors of the observatory, which will focus the light on its cameras. Next, space agencies began working to deploy the craft’s huge primary mirror.

The primary mirror of the JWST consists of three parts, including two wings on each side of the main body. Each of the two wings is made up of three mirror segments that must be unfolded to create the 6.5 meter mirror.

This stage of the JWST deployment is expected to be completed today.

After that, all the delicate, complex The stages of Webb’s deployment will be complete and it will be a question of refining each element and the position of the craft in space before the telescope can begin its research.

Once ready to begin its mission, JWST will capture images of distant planets and galaxies, some of which may offer glimpses of the origins of the universe.

Floyd N. Morlan