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James Webb Space Telescope Final Unfolding: Primary Mirror to be Deployed Jan. 8

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Over the past week, NASA engineers have been working diligently to deploy key instruments and equipment on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), including its sunshield and secondary mirrors. On Saturday 8 January, the primary camera of the $10 billion (about Rs 74,340 crore) space observatory will be deployed, which will study the origin of the universe and exoplanets. With this the major deployment of the most powerful telescope ever sent to space will come to an end. After completing the unprecedented process of unfolding in space, JWST will begin preparations for the complex operation.

JWST is a collaborative project between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. It was launched on 25 December on an Ariane 5 rocket. After being released into space, the telescope slowly opened itself up and is now in its final stages. The process is human-controlled and provides the team with the flexibility to pause and adjust. This, at times, leads to changes in the initial plans for deployment.

NASA said it will broadcast live coverage of the final hours of JWST’s major deployment. Live coverage is scheduled to begin tomorrow at 7:30 PM IST.

The live broadcast is expected to end at around 12 pm (midnight) in India, and then NASA will hold a press briefing. Both the broadcast and the media briefing will be telecast live on the agency’s website.

This would end James Webb’s major deployment but would take some more time to become fully operational and replace the Hubble Telescope. Once it is ready, JWST will trace every stage of cosmic history. It will help us understand the origin of the universe and our place in it.

Earlier this week, JWST completed tightening its kite-shaped sunshield, which will keep the telescope cool enough to capture images of distant stars and planets. The opening of the sunshield’s five layers proved to be a triumph of space engineering. Many initially doubted its success because the design included multiple motors, gears, cables and other equipment.


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