Space – The shield of the James Webb telescope spreads its wings

Le télescope James Webb s’est détaché de la fusée Ariane le jour de Noël.


A vital step for the continuation of its mission, the James Webb Telescope, Tuesday, saw its heat shield, which it must protect from the sun, to be fully open.

The James Webb Telescope separated from an Ariane rocket on Christmas Day.

France Press agency

The James Webb Space Telescope on Tuesday took a big step toward the success of its mission by fully deploying the heat shield, an essential component for making future observations of the universe.

In a statement, Thomas Zurbuchen, chief of science missions at NASA, said that even if several operations still needed to be successful for the observatory to be fully operational, deployment of this sunvisor was the “hardest” on the list. This success.

The shield consists of five layers, each the size of a tennis court, and is intended to protect scientific instruments from the heat of our star. They have been carefully revealed and extended one by one since Monday.

900,000 km

Since the telescope is too large to fit into a rocket, the telescope had to be folded on itself like origami and required to be deployed into space, a procedurecomfort dangerous. Deploying this sunblock was one of the most difficult stages.

“It’s a very special day,” astronomer Klaus Pontopedan, James Webb’s chief scientist, wrote on Twitter. “I think it’s time to realize that we may soon have a giant, fully functional space telescope.” Astronomers around the world are waiting for James Webb, and he should make it possible to observe the first galaxies in particular, which formed only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

The most powerful space observatory ever built, took off a little over a week ago from French Guiana and is currently more than 900,000 km from Earth. It is still on its way to reaching its final orbit, 1.5 million kilometers from us – four times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

In this place, in the event of a problem, no repair task is conceivable. Therefore, it should be deployed, under the guidance of Baltimore, on the East Coast of the United States without any errors. More than a hundred engineers are currently working there 24 hours a day to make sure everything goes as planned.


NASA broadcast the event live on the Internet on Tuesday morning. With no aircraft on board able to take pictures of the observatory itself, the only pictures available were from the operations control room, where the deployment teams cheered with glee.

It was hard to describe the atmosphere. It was an incredible moment. “There was a lot of joy, a lot of relief,” Hilary Stock, who is responsible for deploying sunblock at partner Northrop Grumman, told reporters. “Everything went smoothly,” she added.

The shield measures approximately 20 x 14 meters and is designed in the shape of a diamond. Its layers, thin as hair, were formerly folded like an accordion, and now some are spaced a few tens of a few tens of centimeters.

(France Press agency)

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