James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror complete

080216 jameswebb 2
The 18 mirrors are seen fully installed on the James Webb Space Telescope structure. – NASA/Chris Gunn

The 18th and final primary mirror segment is installed on the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be the biggest and most powerful ever launched and the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope .

“Scientists and engineers have been working tirelessly to install these incredible, nearly perfect mirrors that will focus light from previously hidden realms of planetary atmospheres, star forming regions and the very beginnings of the Universe,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“With the mirrors finally complete, we are one step closer to the audacious observations that will unravel the mysteries of the Universe.”

Each hexagonal mirror segment measures just over 1.3 metres across and weighs 40 kilograms.

Once in space and fully deployed, the 18 primary mirror segments will work together as one large 6.5 metre-diameter mirror.

While the primary mirror installation may be finished on the tennis court-sized infrared observatory, there still is much work to be done.

"Now that the mirror is complete, we look forward to installing the other optics and conducting tests on all the components to make sure the telescope can withstand a rocket launch," said Bill Ochs, James Webb Space Telescope project manager.

"This is a great way to start 2016!"

The telescope will study many phases in the history of the Universe, including the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets similar to Earth, as well as the evolution of our own solar system.

It’s scheduled for launch from French Guiana aboard a European Space Agency (ESA) Ariane 5 rocket in 2018.

The telescope is an international project led by NASA with the ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

The graphic below illustrates where the James Webb Space Telescope will be placed, at Lagrange Point 2. For more information about the telescope and its deployment, see the Cosmos feature Pulling back the curtain on the Universe.

230315 john webb 3r
The five Lagrange points, where objects in space can be held in place by gravity. – COSMOS MAGAZINE

Please login to favourite this article.