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NASA News: The Cutting-Edge Telescope That Will Put Hubble Into Shame

First Posted: May 02, 2016 05:10 AM EDT
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The Hubble Space Telescope will soon become a relic of the past as NASA has finally revealed the telescope's giant successor. Equipped with a collapsible honeycomb-like 18-segment mirror network, this new telescope has the size of a tennis court, and is coated in gleaming gold.

As cited in a news report on Tech Times, the much-awaited descendant of the Hubble Space Telescope, called the James Webb Telescope, is scheduled for launching come 2018 aboard the Ariane 5 rocket.. The mission engineers, for the very first time, had unveiled to the public the intricate network of mirrors which will become the heart of the next-generation orbiting observatory.

Each hexagonal mirror segment, having the size of a coffee table, is entirely made of lightweight beryllium, a dull gray toxic metal. In addition, what gives it a sunny, gleaming look is a layer of vaporized gold-a few atoms thick-on the surface.

This gold layer, moreover, greatly improves the infrared light reflectivity of the mirror. And boosting the infrared light reflectivity of its mirror will absolutely enable it to fully capture even the faintest infrared glow of the oldest galaxies as well as stars in the universe. Weighing approximately 46 pounds, each mirror segment of the James Webb Telescope, conceals motors beneath it. These motors allow the Earth-bound team to precisely focus the James Webb Telescope while it is in orbit.

"Scientists from around the world will use this unique observatory to capture images and spectra of not only the first galaxies to appear in the early universe over 13.5 billion years ago, but also the full range of astronomical sources such as star-forming nebulae, exoplanets, and even moons and planets within our own Solar System," NASA wrote in the press as cited on CBC News.

Slated to be the most powerful space telescope ever built, the James Webb Space Telescope is a collaborative project between the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.

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