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Space exploration

Successful launch of the James Webb Telescope



James Webb is expected to provide new information on the formation of planets, stars and black holes thanks to its infrared reading device. Photo: ESA

James Webb is expected to provide new information on the formation of planets, stars and black holes thanks to its infrared reading device. Photo: ESA

Twenty-two years after work on it began, the James Webb Telescope was successfully launched on Saturday by Arianespace from Kourou. The successor to Hubble has claimed the sweat of engineers at NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency, and is poised to change our understanding of the universe.

The telescope represents technological breakthroughs and global collaborations. Named after NASA’s second administrator, who was instrumental in the success of the Apollo programme, the telescope is very different from the Hubble.

Indeed, unlike its predecessor, it observes in the infrared but cannot use ultraviolet and some visible light. Its mirror is almost three times as large, but it’s half the weight. “This makes it 100 times more powerful,” said Arianespace’s Director General Stéphane Israël.

This telescope should make it possible to learn more about the origin of galaxies, the formation of stars and black holes. The most enthusiastic hope is that it will even be able to tell whether life exists on other planets, even outside the solar system. Its high-speed antenna (28.5GB of data) will be used twice a day to send data to Earth.

Its launch on Saturday in Kourou went off without a hitch for Arianespace and has been hailed around the world, 22 years and $10b after the work on it began.

This article was originally published in Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.