James Webb Telescope Launched in Historic Search for Alien Life

NASA’s James Webb Telescope has successfully launched into space as it begins its mission to look back into the early cosmos and search for alien life.

Illustrative image of the Ariane-5 rocket leaving the Earth’s atmosphere and ready to eject the James Webb Space Telescope.

Three decades in the making, the $10 billion rig took off in spectacular fashion on an Ariane rocket from French Guiana. NASA scientists now face “two weeks of terror” as they cross their fingers and hope everything goes according to plan. This is because the James Webb Telescope is far larger than any payload any rocket has ever launched.

The James Webb Telescope was designed to detect light from the youngest stars in the Universe using its 21-foot (6.5-meter) wide golden mirror.

NASA had to get around this problem by turning the telescope into the most complex and expensive piece of origami in the world.

The telescope was launched folded inside Ariane 5’s payload fairing, after which it will undergo a relentless unwinding procedure.

Once unrolled, Dr. Megan Argo, vice president of the  Royal Astronomical Society , said it will be almost as big as a tennis court.

Webb’s objective will be to try to show the first stars and galaxies to shine in the Universe.

It will also have the power to probe the atmosphere of distant planets in search of gases that might suggest the presence of life.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told the  BBC :

“Webb is an extraordinary mission.

It’s a shining example of what we can accomplish when we dream big. We always knew this project would be a risky undertaking. But, of course, when you want a big reward, you often have to take a big risk.”

At the center of its capabilities is the 6.5 meter wide golden mirror. It will work alongside four super-sensitive instruments and should allow Webb to detect light from the first stars.

NASA Senior Project Scientist John Mather added:

“They will just be little red spots.

We think there should be stars, galaxies or black holes starting perhaps 100 million years after the Big Bang. There won’t be many of them to find at that time, but the Webb Telescope can see them if they’re there and we’re lucky.”

JWST has been in the works since Hubble’s launch in April 1990 and was originally planned to be built and ready to fly as early as 2007.

The project has suffered from many delays over the years, including a recent decision to push the release date back to Christmas Day.

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