NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most powerful space science telescope ever constructed, has begun its journey. After launching aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana last week, the spacecraft is on the way to its final observation post, nearly one million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth.
Now comes the tricky part: Teams of engineers on the ground are currently orchestrating the complex, weeks-long sequence of deployments necessary for Webb to unfold from its compact launch configuration into its operational configuration, including the extension of a giant, tennis court-sized sunshield that will allow the telescope to operate at the extremely cold temperatures necessary for Webb to function the way it was designed.
After the six-month commissioning process is complete—and the observatory is fully cooled, aligned, and calibrated— Webb’s revolutionary technology will study every phase of 13.5 billion years of cosmic history, from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, and everything in between.
Wondering how you can follow along as the world’s most powerful space telescope continues its journey? NASA has you covered. Click here for the resources you need to stay up-to-date on Webb’s progress: