NASA's revolutionary new space telescope due for launch from French Guiana

# 25 December 2021 09:45 (UTC +04:00)

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, a revolutionary $9 billion instrument able to peer more deeply into the cosmos than ever, was due for launch early Saturday from South America's northeastern coast, opening a highly anticipated new era of astronomical exploration, APA reports citing Reuters.

The powerful infrared telescope, hailed by NASA as the premiere space-science observatory of the next decade, was packed inside the cargo bay of an Ariane 5 rocket poised for blastoff at 7:20 a.m. EST (1220 GMT) from the European Space Agency's (ESA) launch base in French Guiana.

If all goes according to plan, the 14,000-pound instrument will be released from the French-built rocket after a 26-minute ride into space.

The Webb telescope will then take a month to coast to its destination in solar orbit roughly 1 million miles from Earth - about four times farther away than the moon. And Webb's special orbital path will keep it in constant alignment with Earth as the planet and telescope circle the sun in tandem.

By comparison, Webb's 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbits Earth itself from 340 miles away, passing in and out of the planet's shadow every 90 minutes.

Named for the man who oversaw NASA through most of its formative decade of the 1960s, Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than Hubble and is expected to profoundly transform scientists' understanding of the universe and our place in it.

Webb mainly will view the cosmos in the infrared spectrum, allowing it to peer through clouds of gas and dust where stars are being born, while Hubble has operated primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.