The Hubble Telescope provided some of the most incredible images the world has seen. The next generation telescope, James Webb, will be launched in 2018. As a comparison, Hubble is equipped with a 2.4 meters mirror, while James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will sport a 6.5 meters mirror. The James Webb telescope will be the first imaging device to actually stand a chance in finding alien life.
Building such a large precise mirror requires extraordinary skills. The engineers had to assemble 18 hexagonal mirror segments to form the $8.8 billion telescope mirror. The largest telescope mirror planned to lie atop Armazones, a Chilean mountain, will belong to the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The diameter of the telescope planned to be functional by 2024 is 39 meters, 29 meters more than the present telescopes, according to the New York Times.
The new wave in astronomical observation includes projects of telescopes more powerful than Hubble. The reliable Hubble space telescope has a main advantage compared with grounded telescopes, its mirror is not obstructed by atmospheric gases. New technology allows not only building larger mirrors, but also new technologies to clarify images. By using adaptive optics, the new mirrors will be able to cancel the disruptive optical effect of atmospheric gases.
NASA works on more than one field. Until a habitable planet outside the solar system will be discovered, Jupiter’s satellite, Europa, need to be explored is search of a potential underground liquid ocean.
James Webb Telescope will provide impressive images starting with 2018
JWST was supposed to cost ‘only’ $5 billion and be placed on orbit this year. Unfortunately, the final cost is going to be $8 billion and the launch year has been postponed for 2018. Unfortunately, because NASA had to abandon other projects and squeeze funds from every possible source to support JWST’s development.
JWST will mainly be oriented to measuring infrared light. Planets do not regularly emit visible light as much as infrared radiation. Because JWST will search for potentially habitable planets, infrared radiation measuring instruments will be top class.
Out of the 100 billion estimated planets in the Milky Way Galaxy, around 10 to 20 percent might be positioned in the habitable zone. The zone would be not too far and not too close to the host star for liquid water to exist.
JWST telescope scientist Matt Mountain believes that we need much larger mirrors to be able to see enough planets and statistically have a chance of finding a habitable one. Mountain dreams of 20 meters mirrors to achieve this task, according to Spacenews.com. The James Webb telescope is more of a warming up in astronomy. Real results will start coming in a couple of decades, after optical technology refines even more.