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Five things to know about the Telescope

Five things to know about the Telescope

Five things to know about the Telescope

Telescope

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The James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful space observatory ever built, is now tentatively set for launch on Christmas Day, after decades of waiting.

An engineering marvel, it will help answer fundamental questions about the Universe, peering back in time 13 billion years. Here are five things to know.

Giant gold mirror

The telescope’s centerpiece is its enormous primary mirror, a concave structure 21.5 feet (6.5 meters) wide and made up of 18 smaller hexagonal mirrors. They’re made from beryllium coated with gold, optimized for reflecting infrared light from the far reaches of the universe.

The observatory also has four scientific instruments, which together fulfill two main purposes: imaging cosmic objects, and spectroscopy — breaking down light into separate wavelengths to study the physical and chemical properties of cosmic matter.

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The mirror and instruments are protected by a five-layer sunshield, which is shaped like a kite and built to unfurl to the size of a tennis court.

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