The James Webb Space Telescope — Why gold mirrors and other fun facts!

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Most of us know about the newest telescope sent into space — The James Webb Space Telescope. It’s big and expensive but the James Webb is a telescope like no other.

The James Webb Space Telescope was a long time in the making. It was initiated in 1996 and finally launched a million miles into space on Christmas Day 2021. It is a truly globally collaboration that made this technological marvel the size of a bus into a reality.

According to Dr. Kimberly Arcand, the visualization scientist for the NASA Chanrda X-ray Observatory, contributions from the Canadians, the European Space Agency and scientists from all over the world, made this project possible.

It takes a global village and ten billion dollars to make the world’s most powerful telescope. It is 1000 times more powerful than the Hubble telescope and can see details on a U.S. penny at a distance of 24 miles away. It sees it all outside the visible spectrum — it sees infrared light.

With the longer wavelength of the infrared, this telescope can see farther in space and detect details not revealed in the visible or X-ray spectrum.

James Webb Space Telescope has the largest mirror in space and it is coated with actual gold. The job of mirrors on a telescope is to gather and reflect light and gold is the best at reflecting infrared light. The amount of detail a telescope can see is directly related to the size of the mirror and this one is more than 21 feet across.

To see in the infrared spectrum means it’s seeing heat, which means the James Webb Space Telescope needs to be strictly temperature controlled, and the colder, the better.

Arcand explained the telescope has a hot side facing the sun and a cold side where the instrumentation is located.

Every detail is carefully managed to bring us the most stunning images of distant galaxies.

Categories: News, Scientifically Speaking