The James Webb Space Telescope reaches its final orbit

Deepak Gupta January 24, 2022
Updated 2022/01/24 at 10:29 PM

The James Webb Space Telescope has arrived in its new home. NASA has confirmed the remote observatory successfully entered its final orbit around the second Lagrange Sun-Earth point (also known as L2) after a last course correction burn. The telescope’s primary mirror and secondary mirror segments have already been deployed, but you’ll have to wait until summer for the first images. NASA will spend the next few months preparing the JWST for service, including a three-month optical alignment process.

The L2 orbit is crucial to the telescope’s mission. It provides a largely unobstructed view of space, while giving the spacecraft a cool, interference-free position that helps your instruments reach their full potential. The JWST is expected to study the early Universe using infrared light, providing data that would not be available from an Earth-orbiting telescope like Hubble.

The arrival is also a relief for NASA. The stakes were high, given the project’s $10 billion cost, of course, but it also proves that the space agency could successfully launch and deploy a sophisticated observatory far from Earth. And while they are different devices, the JWST is widely considered the spiritual successor to Hubble – with the older telescope clearly in crude form, expectations are particularly high for the new machine.

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