NASA news: Alien hunting mega-telescope JWST is now fully assembled in 'major milestone'

NASA described the connecting the two halves of the JWST as a “major milestone” with the machine now being fully assembled. JWST still has to undergo testing before its scheduled launch in 2021, when it will replace the ageing Hubble Telescope as the premier set of eyes on the sky. Scientists are optimistic that the JWST will help unravel the mysteries of the Universe and potentially find alien life.

The infrared machine is so powerful it will reach back to the furthest realms and the earliest moments of space and time.

And the JWST, which is named after NASA’s second administrator James Webb who served from 1961-1968 who played a major part in the Apollo missions, has the capability of scanning thousands of planets for alien life – even though those planets are thousands of light years away.

As well as seeing further into space it will accurately measure the content of water, carbon dioxide and other components in the atmosphere of an exoplanet – a planet outside of our solar system – as well as tell scientists more about the size and distance these planets are from their host stars.

Through Hubble, experts have been able to view the formation of the first galaxies, about one billion years after the Big Bang.

However, as JWST is much more powerful, it will be able to see just 0.3 billion years after the Big Bang to when visible light itself was beginning to form.

JWST will also be situated much farther out in space than Hubble.

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Hubble is placed in Earth’s orbit just 570,000 kilometres from the surface, but JWST will be placed an astonishing 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, meaning that if it breaks down while it is up there, it will not be able to be fixed.

Following the announcement that JWST had been full assembled, Bill Ochs, JWST project manager for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, said: “The assembly of the telescope and its scientific instruments, sunshield and the spacecraft into one observatory represents an incredible achievement by the entire Webb team.

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“This milestone symbolises the efforts of thousands of dedicated individuals for over more than 20 years across NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, Northrop Grumman, and the rest of our industrial and academic partners.”

Gregory Robinson, the Webb program director at NASA Headquarters, added: “This is an exciting time to now see all Webb’s parts finally joined together into a single observatory for the very first time.

“The engineering team has accomplished a huge step forward and soon we will be able to see incredible new views of our amazing universe.”



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