New £6.6BN NASA James Webb Space Telescope telescope will hunt alien life
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is so powerful it will make the Hubble Telescope look like a pair of binoculars, fans say.
The infrared machine is so powerful it will reach back to the furthest realms and the earliest moments of the universe. And the JWST has the capability of scanning thousands of planets for alien life – even though those planets are thousands of light years away.
The James Webb Space Telescope had been scheduled to be operational next year, but delays in the integration of key instruments, such as the 6.5 metre mirror which will help it see into deep space, has seen the launch put back until sometime between March and June 2019.
As well as seeing further into space it will accurately measure the content of water, carbon dioxide and other components in the atmosphere of an exoplanet – a planet outside of our solar system – as well as tell scientists more about the size and distance these planets are from their host stars.
The JWST is under construction
One of the major differences between Hubble and JWST will be how far back in time it will be able to see.
Hubble can see far into space and is essentially looking back in time as light travels to the craft.
Through Hubble, experts have been able to view the formation of the first galaxies, about one billion years after the Big Bang.
However, as JWST is much more powerful, it will be able to see just 0.3 billion years after the Big Bang to when visible light itself was beginning to form.
Also, JWST will be situated much farther out in space.
Hubble is placed in Earth’s orbit just 570,000 kilometres from the surface, but JWST will be placed an astonishing 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, meaning that if it breaks down while it is up there, it will not be able to be fixed.
The JWST will replace Hubble
This is one of the main reasons that the launch of the $8.8billion project, which was originally scheduled for 2011, has been delayed as researchers need to be absolutely sure that everything is in pristine condition.
However, JWST program director Eric Smith, said that the launch will not have an effect on the budget.
He said: “The Congressional cap is on the development (through commissioning) cost of Webb and not the launch date.
“No new funding for Webb will be required even with the launch date change. Assuming the remaining integration and test steps proceed as planned for Webb, and no long launch delays are encountered in French Guiana, the Webb program has sufficient funds to stay in its planned budget.”