It’s been a long time coming, but the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is finally nearing its launch in October 2018. Now, we’ve got one of our best glimpses yet of its incredible primary mirror.
The photo above is from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, with the 18 separate hexagonal gold-plated segments joined together. The mirror here is being moved by a crane into a clean room. Soon, the telescope will go to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for further testing.
It’s not all been plain sailing though. In December 2016, NASA found a problem with the telescope during vibration testing, simulating the forces it’ll experience on the way to space. Just yesterday, it was announced that the cause was a latch that didn’t close properly. Considering the $8.8 billion cost of the telescope (and being several years behind schedule), NASA is keen for everything to go smoothly.
When it does eventually launch, though, it should be pretty spectacular. JWST is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and will afford us some fascinating views of the cosmos. Observing the universe in infrared, it will allow us to study some of the most distant galaxies, characterize the atmospheres of exoplanets, and much more.
It will be positioned 1.5 million kilometers (1 million miles) from Earth, near the orbit of the Moon, free from interference from our planet. Unlike Hubble, it can’t be repaired in this position though, so it needs to work first time. For now, it at least looks pretty spectacular.