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James Webb Space Telescope:
A Breakthrough in Space Exploration


Launched in 2021, James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is an astronomical observatory, designed to explore and observe the universe beyond the capabilities of its predecessor, the Hubble telescope. The JWST has primary mirror of 6.5m in diameter, the largest of any space-based telescope, and its advanced infrared technology, it can observe objects that were previously too faint, old, and distant for the Hubble telescope. The JWST’s aim is to revolutionise the exploration of the cosmos by studying the earliest galaxies and stars, and to detect light from the first objects that were formed in the universe. In its short deployment time, the JWST has already provided us with fascinating new insights and images of the deep space, pushing the boundaries of our understanding of the cosmos.

History of James Webb Space Telescope

• 1996: Next Generation Space Telescope project first proposed (8m)
• 2001: NEXUS Space Telescope, a precursor to the Next Generation Space Telescope, cancelled
• 2002: Proposed project renamed James Webb Space Telescope, (mirror size reduced to 6 m)
• 2003: Northrop Grumman awarded contract to build telescope
• 2007: Memorandum of Understanding signed between NASA and ESA[72]
• 2010: Mission Critical Design Review (MCDR) passed
• 2011: Proposed cancellation
• 2016: Final assembly completed
• 2021: Launch

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Achievements of James Webb Space Telescope

In its short deployment, the JWST has been able to provide some exceptional data, ranging from beautiful pictures of galaxies and nebulas, the first of its kind image of an exo planet and details of exo planets atmosphere. Since its launch, scientists have been discovering galaxies far away and older than ever before, the launch of this observatory has truly made a breakthrough in space exploration. Some of its achievements are explained more in detail below:

• To begin with, the JWST has been able to capture some of the most breath-taking and beautiful images of nebulae and galaxies, in both visible light and infrared spectrum. The new pictures have changed the way we had observed these subjects, giving us a deeper insight into the formation stars in these nebulae due to its higher resolutions. Some of the most iconic pictures from the JWST so far have been the pictures of the pillars of creation and the southern ring nebula.

• Studying exoplanets have always been a challenge for scientists, due to their size
exoplanets are only visible through analysis of dips in luminance of its host star. But for the first time, the JWST using its infrared spectrometer and primary lens, was able to capture an image of a n exoplanet directly.

• During its observations, the JWST has been. able to study and explore many star systems and in some cases the exoplanets as well,  going as far as studying their atmospheres in some detail giving the research teams an insight into what these worlds may look like.

• The JWST while observing the deep space has been able to capture the oldest galaxies known to mankind, dated as old as 13.4billion years, 350 million years after the big bang.


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Future of Space Exploration and JWST 

The launch of the JWST marks a significant  milestone in the field of space exploration. Not only has it opened up a  new era of scientific discovery, but it has also introduced a new era for  large space structures. The JWST, being the first self-assembling telescope  launched in space, has proven that the only viable option for launching  such a massive instrument is to make it segmented and assemble it in  orbit. As we move forward, the ability to launch large structures in space  that can be reassembled will undoubtedly lead to even more significant  discoveries. With 6000 hours allocated for different observation missions,  the JWST will enable researchers to work towards solving more of the  unanswered questions regarding the cosmos. From deep space  observation to exoplanet analysis, the possibilities are endless. 

Written by Zari Syed

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