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James Webb Space Telescope

Context: NASA has delayed the launch of its much awaited, $8 billion James Webb Space Telescope — set to be the world’s biggest space observatory — until at least May 2020.

What is the James Webb Space Telescope?

The James Webb Space Telescope, also called Webb or JWST, is a large, space-based observatory, optimized for infrared wavelengths, which will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope.

It will cover longer wavelengths of light than Hubble and will have greatly improved sensitivity. The longer wavelengths enable JWST to look further back in time to see the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, and to peer inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.

Why is Webb an infrared telescope?

By viewing the universe at infrared wavelengths Webb will show us things never before seen by any other telescope. It is only at infrared wavelengths that we can see the first stars and galaxies forming after the Big Bang. And it is with infrared light that we can see stars and planetary systems forming inside clouds of dust that are opaque to visible light.

Who is James Webb?

This space-based observatory is named after James E. Webb (1906- 1992), NASA’s second administrator. Webb is best known for leading Apollo, a series of lunar exploration programs that landed the first humans on the Moon. However, he also initiated a vigorous space science program that was responsible for more than 75 launches during his tenure, including America’s first interplanetary explorers.

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