James Webb telescope reaches final destination a million miles from Earth
The James Webb Space Telescope, which launched just under a month ago, reached its destination on Monday afternoon, positioning itself to orbit nearly 1 million miles from Earth.
The telescope, regarded as the successor to the Hubble, fired its onboard thrusters for about five minutes as part one final course correction before going around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, or the L2 point, according to blog post from NASA.
Lagrange points are positions in space where objects tend to stay put, with the gravitational force of two large masses equaling the centripetal force needed to move along with them.
“Webb, welcome home!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in celebration of the $10 billion telescope reaching its goal.
“Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb’s safe arrival at L2 today,” Nelson said. “We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!”
According to NASA, Webb’s position will give it a wide view of space at any time, and the temperatures will be cold enough for it to “function and perform optimal science.”
Webb project manager Bill Ochs said, “During the past month, JWST has achieved amazing success and is a tribute to all the folks who spent many years and even decades to ensure mission success.”
“We are now on the verge of aligning the mirrors, instrument activation and commissioning, and the start of wondrous and astonishing discoveries,” he said.
The telescope, a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, launched on Dec. 25, and throughout its journey, it expanded its mirror into a proper position to function.
Though Webb was originally projected to have a lifetime of five to 10 years, NASA said in a statement post-launch that excess fuel will likely allow it to function “significantly” longer than 10 years.
While Webb was deployed with little issue, its launch was not without controversy. Before it lifted off, space lovers and scientists called for it to be renamed, arguing that it was inappropriate to bear the name of a former NASA administrator who did not have a scientific background and allowed the federal government to discriminate against lesbian and gay employees.
In September, Nelson confirmed that Webb’s name would not be changed, saying in an interview, “We have found no evidence at this time that warrants changing the name of the James Webb Space Telescope.”
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