Dec 24, 2021 - Science

NASA's next great telescope is set for launch

The mirrors of the James Webb Space Telescope deployed on Earth

The golden mirrors of the James Webb Space Telescope on Earth. Photo: NASA/Chris Gunn

NASA's $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch to space on Christmas Day.

Why it matters: The JWST is designed to capture the light of some of the first galaxies that coalesced after the Big Bang, learn more about how stars form, peer into the atmospheres of alien planets and more.

How to watch: The telescope — which is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope — is expected to take flight from Kourou, French Guiana, at 7:20am ET on Christmas Day.

  • You can watch the launch live via NASA TV starting at 6am ET.

Between the lines: Getting the JWST to the launch pad has been a long time coming.

  • The project has been decades in the making with technical and budgetary delays that caused the cost of the telescope to balloon over time.

What's next: The launch is just the beginning for the JWST and the nervous scientists and engineers working with the mission on Earth.

  • After launch, the large telescope will need to unfurl in space, deploying its large heat shield, mirrors and instruments over the course of weeks as it makes its way out about 1 million miles from Earth.
  • That great distance will mean the JWST won't be eligible to be serviced in the way the Hubble Space Telescope after it got to space.

Go deeper: NASA's next great space telescope has arrived

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