The Webb Space Telescope awaits launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Photo: ESA/CNES/Arianespace
After decades of waiting, the Webb Space Telescope is finally ready to explode. You can watch this historic launch live here.
For years I’ve had to refer to the “upcoming” James Webb Space Telescope and make promises about how this $10 billion observatory, a joint project of NASA, ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will one day fundamentally change our view. on the cosmos. For me, the experience of writing this ‘how to look’ post is downright surreal, and I can hardly believe it’s happening. But it’s true – the wait seems finally over, as Webb sits atop a rocket, staring up at the sky.
The space telescope will launch on Christmas morning at 7:20 a.m. EST (4:20 a.m. PST) from the Guyana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. An Ariane 5 rocket will do the heavy lifting and blast off from launch complex ELA-3. The 32-minute start window for the day ends at 7:52 a.m. EST (4:52 a.m. PST).
NASA TV will provide an update on rocket refueling at 3:00 AM EST (12:00 PM PST), but the real show will begin at 6:00 AM EST (3:00 AM PST). Live feeds from the launch will be made available on NASA TV, YouTube, and further ESA WEB TV ONE. Or you can stay here and follow the action via the feed below.
ESA also broadcasts in French and Spanish. A steady stream of updates will appear on facebook, Twitter, and twitch, so as long as you have an internet connection you should be fine. NASA’s post-launch press conference is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. EST (6:00 a.m. PST), also on NASA TV.
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The launch will be exciting – and completely unnerving – but so will the first hour of the mission. Webb will have to deploy his solar panels and perform a course correction maneuver as the spacecraft begins its month-long journey to the second Lagrange point (a gravitationally stable spot about 1 million miles from Earth). The following steps include a complex set of implementations and calibrations, with Webb expected to enter the science phase of his mission in about six months.
Webb is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built. The infrared observatory was due to start in 2007, but technical and budgetary hurdles, among other things, caused delays. Astronomers will use the telescope to observe the universe’s earliest galaxies, investigate the birthplaces of stars and planets, and scan the atmospheres of distant worlds. The mission would last at least five years, but the goal is to keep Webb going for 10 years.
Lake: Here’s What Can Still Go Wrong With the Webb Space Telescope.
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