University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Next Generation Space Telescope
For decades the Hubble Telescope has played a pivotal role in astronomy’s history. However, by 2013, the Hubble may pail in comparison to the Next Generation Space Telescope. Now known as the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists are hopeful that this Hubble upgrade will prove beneficial in advancing space discovery. This infrared, observation device named after NASA’s second director will be built, maintained, and operated by NASA along with the help of Canadian and European space associations (NASA, 2007). With the tentative date of June 2013, scientists are eagerly awaiting a launch that will take place off the Ariane 5 rocket (European, 2007).
With its mission well defined, the Webb Telescope will look for evidence to substantiate the Big Bang Theory. Also, while studying the stars and other celestial bodies, they hope to uncover the origins of the galaxies (Birth, 2007). Taking advantage of the Webb Telescope’s new optic capabilities will do this. The new scope will have a primary mirror that is six times larger than that of the Hubble Scope (NASA, 2007). This mirror will be comprised of numerous segments, all of which will unfold post launch. These segments will be perfectly positioned through the use of micrometers. The telescope also contains an Integrated Science Instrument Module.
This module is composed of a Near Infrared Camera, a Near Infrared Spectrograph, and a Mid Infrared instrument. These properties will allow the telescope to be light sensitive from a wavelength of .6 to 27 micrometers. Webb’s telescope will have such visual acuity that “we can see details the size of a U.S. penny at a distance of about 24 miles” (NASA, 2007 ). This telescope’s visual capacity is so great that it can even detect the faintest of objects. With the hope of studying the first stars and galaxies of the universe, the scope has been designed to view bodies up to 100 times more than the Hubble (NASA, 2007). Once all of the images and data have been collected, they will be sent to earth via a higher frequency radio transmitter.
However, for this to occur, certain precautions must be taken. The near infrared instruments work at 30 Kelvin while the mid infrared instruments work at 7 Kelvin (Koris, 2007) To accommodate this, sunshades will be made to protect the scope from the sun’s harsh glare. The shades will reduce the telescope temperature up to 50 Kelvin, allowing for all machinery to work properly. Precautions like these are essential, as the Webb telescope will not be serviceable like the Hubble Telescope (NASA, 2007). Unlike the Hubble that is only 600 kilometers away, the Webb telescope is some 1.5million kilometers from the earth and far beyond a space shuttles reach.
With an estimated cost of $35 million dollars, the Webb Telescope went into its first design phase and by the summer of 2007 it is speculated that the telescope will go into its second and more detail oriented design phase. Scientists have high hopes for the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA (2007) even stated,
“JWST [James Webb Space Telescope] will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System” (NASA, 2007).
Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems 2007, Available at
European Space Agency 2007, James Webb Space Telescope Overview,
Available at http://www.esa.int/esaSC/120370_index_0_m.html
Koris, Sally 2007, ‘James Webb Space Telescope Sunshield Membrane Passes
Critical Space-Readiness Testes’, Available at
NASA 2007, The James Webb Space Telescope, Available at