NASA is almost ready with its biggest space telescope which just cleared its significant simulation tests to prove its worth for the launch set to be initiated next year. The James Webb Telescope shall hold the capability to spot alien life far and beyond our solar system. NASA has estimated that the telescope might be launched in the first half of 2019.
The total worth of this gigantic machine is around $8.8 billion which as tested in a huge vacuum chamber to test its functionality in the deep space environment. The well-engineered telescope successfully completed the test and will have the potential to capture any starlight in focus while tracking the astronomical targets. The successful completion of these tests is a major milestone in the future of space.
The scientists have tagged the new telescope as a ‘time machine’ which is designed to unwrap the mystery box of our universe. It will help take a leap back in time to observe the early phase of the universe which was around 13.5 billion years prior today. The scientists shall observe the exo-planets, stars, moons and different planets as they came into existence.
It is the only telescope present in the world with so much power as to peer through the fine veil of space and look back at the point which was around 200 million years post Big Bang. A cryogenic test of 100 days was conducted over the telescope with temperatures that went hundreds of degrees below freezing point. This ensured that the telescope can function at its best even in severely cold environments.
The telescope project manager, Bill Ochs said that the victorious completion of the tests conducted on James Webb Telescope is a major achievement for us as well as future space explorations. The tests verified that it is properly aligned with all the instruments aboard backed by the excellent image quality and great thermal resistivity.
As stated by NASA, in order to observe the far away objects and their infrared light, the telescope needs to be kept at extremely cold temperatures. Most of the instrument aboard James Webb Telescope can withstand temperatures that range up to negative 233 Celsius. However, the MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) needs to be kept at a colder temperature as stated above. To ensure that the MIRI gets colder temperature, the engineers used a cryocooler. This keeps the temperature to negative 266 Celsius.
The vault door to the telescope was shut on 10th July to enable testing in an environment that was present in deep space. Apart from this, the team also tested 18 gold primary mirror based segments to make sure they perform like a single mirror. The team managed to continue the tests, even when Hurricane Harvey was ruining the coast of Texas.
The team used thermal sensors to monitor the telescopes along with some specialized cameras in order to keep track of the temperature and accurate location of each instrument aboard the telescope as it moved.
From 20th July, the team started bringing down the temperature inside the chamber after creating a vacuum like atmosphere by removing all the air. It took them thirty days to complete the task while the telescope remained fixed in a cryo-stable environment for more 30 days. Again, on 27th September, the team started warming the chamber while slowly pumping back the air. The doors were unsealed on 18th November.
The team which comprises of researchers, engineers, and scientists from different corners of the country has made it possible to create such simulations that mimic deep space environments. With that being said, James Webb Telescope shall soon start functioning that might change the understanding we hold about our universe as of now.