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In Photos: See The Dramatic Images Of NASA’s $10 Billion Webb Space Telescope After Launch

Did you watch the James Webb Space Telescope launch? If you did—and you stayed with the broadcast beyond the successful launch—you will have seen some dramatic images of it separating from the Ariane 5 launch vehicle and beginning its one million miles journey.

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope lifted off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, at 13:20 CET on 25 December on its exciting mission to unlock the secrets of the Universe.ESA-CNES-ARIANESPACE / Optique Vidéo du CSG

Surely one of humanity’s greatest scientific achievements, Webb successfully launched on the Ariane 5 rocket at 7:20 a.m. EST from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

That key moment occurred when Webb was 75 miles/120 kilometers above the Earth, with Webb almost immediately unfolding its solar array to give it power. The mission was live!

Here’s exactly where it is now.

The first of three mid-course correction burns was made 12 hours and 30 minutes after launch, firing Webb’s thrusters to manoeuvre the spacecraft on a trajectory toward its destination.

James Webb Space Telescope Launch

In this handout image provided by the U.S. National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA), ESA (European Space Agency) Director-General Dr. Josef Aschbacher, left, and NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, right, watch as Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket launches with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope onboard, from the ELA-3 Launch Zone of Europes Spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre on December 25, 2021, in Kourou, French Guiana. The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) is a large infrared telescope with a 21.3 foot (6.5 meter) primary mirror. The observatory will study every phase of cosmic historyfrom within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)Getty Images

A joint effort between NASA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the CSA (Canadian Space Agency), Webb is the most advanced space telescope yet and is expected to begin a new era in cosmology.

Webb will now begin a month-long journey to orbit the second Lagrange point (L2), a point in space where it can follow Earth in orbit of the Sun, but in the direction away from the Sun.

The James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) is designed to answer outstanding questions about the Universe and to make breakthrough discoveries in all fields of astronomy.

The James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) is designed to answer outstanding questions about the Universe and to make breakthrough discoveries in all fields of astronomy.ESA

Once there its sunshield will block light and heat from both the Sun and Earth from reaching its telescope and instruments. While the sunshield will heat to 85º C the shielded side will operate at -233º C.MORE FROM FORBES7 Things You Didn’t Know About Webb, NASA’s $10 Billion Space Telescope On The Cusp Of A Nervous LaunchBy Jamie Carter

That’s necessary because Webb will operate solely in the infrared. Webb will thus be able to see through dust clouds and detect the light from the first galaxies in the early Universe. It will look deeper into the cosmos than ever before.

James Webb Space Telescope Launch

Webb’s primary mirror is fashioned from beryllium and made-up of 18 hexagonal segments, each one covered in a super-thin layer of gold because it’s perfect for reflecting infrared light.

Webb will also be able to study the atmospheres of distant exoplanets in an effort to determine if any of them are Earth-like—and possibly host lifeforms.

Next on Webb’s agenda is to undergo a complex unfolding sequence. There are 300 single-point failure items, 50 parts and 178 release mechanisms. The sunshield has five super-thin layers, dozens of hinges, motors, gears, springs and 1,312 ft. of cables. The 107 myriad release mechanisms need to fire on cue to erase the five layers. 

This is what happens next: 

  • 1.5 days: Webb passes the Moon.
  • 2.7 days: sunshield lowered, primary golden segmented mirror raised.
  • 10 days: secondary mirror extends.
  • 12 days: primary mirror wings open.
  • 29 days: arrives at final destination. 
James Webb Space Telescope Launch

KOUROU, FRENCH GUIANA – DECEMBER 25: Launch teams monitor the countdown to the launch of Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket carrying NASAs James Webb Space Telescope on December 25, 2021, in the Jupiter Center at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) is a large infrared telescope with a 21.3 foot (6.5 meter) primary mirror. The observatory will study every phase of cosmic history from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)Getty Images

In the months after, the instruments will be switched on and tested. After half a year of commissioning in space, Webb will start its routine science observations and deliver its first images.

“The James Webb Space Telescope represents the ambition that NASA and our partners maintain to propel us forward into the future,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The promise of Webb is not what we know we will discover; it’s what we don’t yet understand or can’t yet fathom about our universe. I can’t wait to see what it uncovers!”

Ariane 5 with James Webb Space Telescope Prelaunch

KOUROU, FRENCH GUIANA – DECEMBER 23: In this handout image provided by the U.S. National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA), Arianespace’s Ariane 5 rocket with NASAs James Webb Space Telescope onboard, is seen at the launch pad December 23, 2021 at Europes Spaceport, the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) is a large infrared telescope with a 21.3 foot (6.5 meter) primary mirror. The observatory will study every phase of cosmic historyfrom within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. (Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)NASA via Getty Images

“Webb’s scientific promise is now closer than it ever has been,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We are poised on the edge of a truly exciting time of discovery, of things we’ve never before seen or imagined.”

Webb is the successor to the Spitzer space telescope and will work in tandem with the Hubble space telescope.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

This article was written by Jamie Carter from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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