Jan 24, 2022 - Science

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is in position 1 million miles away

Artist's illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope in space.
Artist's illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope in space. Photo: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has officially reached its destination about 1 million miles from Earth, bringing it closer to science operations later this year.

Why it matters: The $10 billion space telescope is designed to change the way scientists understand how the universe formed not long after the Big Bang.

Driving the news: On Monday, the JWST fired its thrusters for about five minutes, inserting it into orbit at L2, a point about one million miles from Earth.

  • "Webb, welcome home!" NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. "Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb’s safe arrival at L2 today."
  • From its new point in space, the JWST will be able to observe a wide swath of the universe and keep its instruments cold and therefore sensitive to infrared light.

What's next: Now that the JWST is in place in space, scientists will be able to spend the coming months aligning its optics and testing its instruments so that it can perform its science starting this summer.

  • The telescope is expected to peer through dust to eventually capture the light from some of the first galaxies that formed in the universe and even observe the atmospheres of potentially habitable planets far from our solar system.
  • According to an earlier estimate, the JWST should have enough fuel to operate for at least 20 years in space.
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