The world’s largest and most powerful space telescope has reached its final destination – an observation post one million miles away from Earth.
Nasa’s $10bn James Webb space telescope launched on Christmas Day last year from French Guiana on a quest to behold the dawn of the universe. Due to its sheer size, Webb had to launch folded inside the Ariane 5, a European rocket.
The mirrors on the space observatory must still be meticulously aligned and the infrared detectors sufficiently chilled before science observations can begin in June. But flight controllers in Baltimore were euphoric after chalking up another success.
“We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!” the Nasa administrator, Bill Nelson, said in a statement.
“Wow, what a ride this last month it’s been,” said Amber Straughn, a deputy project scientist for Nasa.
The telescope has been described as a “time machine” by scientists and will enable astronomers to peer back further in time than ever before, all the way back to when the first stars and galaxies were forming 13.7bn years ago. That’s a mere 100m years from the Big Bang when the universe was created.
The Webb will also hunt for signs of extraterrestrial life.