Saturday, 25 December 2021

next generation

The culmination of three decades of research and engineering expected to be transformational to science, the James Webb Space Telescope (see previously) launches from the spaceport of French Guiana carried aloft by an ESA Ariane rocket.  The array of mirrors folded and slowly unfurling during (a Korsch telescope—that is, a triple-mirror anti-stigmat) its month-long trip, unlike its predecessor the Hubble which orbited the Earth and made good at an operating temperature of a balmy twenty celsius, the JWST will seek out the second Lagrange point from our planet (one of four foci with gravitation equilibrium) with the flare—the noise and light pollution of the Earth and Sun to its back to see clearer and further in the cold of space, better able to discern non-luminous objects that are more visible along infrared bands. In addition to peering back in time and charting our stellar origins, the unimpeded should allow researchers to glean the chemical composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets and search for biomarkers. The countdown itself is already a white-knuckled event and it will be months before the JWST goes on-line and relays its first images, but it will give us a new perspective on the Cosmos and our place in it.