James Webb captures wonderful photos showing how was the universe billions of years ago!
December 25, 2021, will be marked as a far-reaching day in the history of science. On that very day, NASA successfully launched a telescope named ‘James Webb’ into space. Gradually after a long journey of 15 lakh km, James Webb reached the desired location. It is the largest and most powerful telescope ever launched into space.
Infrared waves from various objects in space are absorbed into the earth’s atmosphere, hence, to capture the infrared waves, it is essential to place the telescope beyond the atmosphere. The Webb is one such telescope. Since the Webb telescope will receive infrared waves, it has to be kept very cold (minus 233 degrees Celsius!). So, it was necessary to have a protective shield between the telescope and the sun. The size of the shield is very large which is about 3232 sq. ft in size. When the telescope was released into space, the shield was kept folded. Technologists succeeded in opening the shield by sending messages from the earth while the telescope was traveling in space. It was required that the shield would not just open, but also be stretched properly. This was also achieved as planned.
Similarly, scientists succeeded in opening the primary mirror. This mirror is made up of 18 small hexagonal mirrors. Its total size is six and a half meters. Such a large mirror could not fit in a rocket. Hence, it was decided that the mirror should also be folded. The mirror was mounted on the telescope and folded in the same way as the paper is folded in the origami method! But the real challenge lay ahead, and that was to open the mirror when the telescope travels into space. But even this unprecedented challenge has been successfully completed by scientists. All this was carried out while ‘James Webb’ traveled in space. This telescope is located in space where the temperature is very low and gravity is almost zero. Scientists are keeping a close eye on how the telescope copes with such a situation. It was impossible to conduct such tests on earth.
After overcoming all the challenges, this telescope is now exploring the universe! NASA released the most beautiful photographs taken by this telescope, on July 12, 2022. The first of these images is a cluster of galaxies. This cluster is several million light years in size, though it is a very small faction of space as seen by the telescope.
What will this telescope do next? It will receive infrared waves from the farthest universe and show us the universe which existed 13.5 billion years ago. In a way, we are sitting in a time machine and traveling through the past. James Webb will make it possible for humans to dig deeper into the past. This will make it possible to study stars and galaxies born 13.5 billion years ago. About 5,000 planets have been discovered so far.
The study of these planets will be greatly facilitated by the Webb telescope. Scientists are hoping that the Webb will shed more light on the massive black holes at the center of some galaxies. There is no doubt that this telescope will play a paramount role in the study of the formation of stars and galaxies in the early days of the universe, the atmosphere of Exoplanets as well as the Quasar, the mysterious objects far away.
Astronomy has now reached the threshold of a new revolution!
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