Watch This Spectacular Footage Of NASA's Space Telescope Before It Vanishes Forever
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is well on its way into the far depths of outer space. But shortly after launch on December 25th, 2021, its separation from the Ariane 5 rocket was captured in all its glory, in glorious high resolution video.
JWST completed its secondary mirror deployment earlier this week. It is simply one of many deployments that must take place for JWST to be fully operational. The secondary mirror is what will direct the light that bounces off Webb's iconic 18 gold primary mirrors to the observatory's instruments. But before that took place, the moment that JWST separated from the Ariane 5 rocket that lifted it into outer space and Webb's subsequent solar array deployment was captured and shared by the European Space Agency (ESA).
The video shows the moment that Webb separated itself from the Ariane 5 rocket and begins to drift slowly away. Once it had gained enough distance, approximately 69 seconds later, the observatory began the solar array deployment. It was thanks to Ariane 5's highly precise launch trajectory that Webb was capable of capturing sunlight to power itself so quickly following separation and therefore begin the solar array deployment. Not too long after, the observatory disappears from view.
"Launching Webb is a huge celebration of the international collaboration that made this next-generation mission possible. I want to thank everyone involved with the design, construction, and launch of this ambitious telescope, for making this day a reality. We are close to receiving Webb's new view of the Universe and the exciting scientific discoveries it will make," says Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General.
As to yesterday's deployment of Webb's secondary mirror, Bill Ochs, Webb project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center stated, "Another banner day for JWST. This is unbelievable...We're about 600,000 miles from Earth, and we actually have a telescope."
The secondary mirror is supported by three lightweight deployable struts that are each about 25 feet long, and are designed to withstand the rigors of outer space. NASA included specialized heating systems to warm up the joints and motors that were needed for a seamless operation. The deployment began at 9:52 a.m. EST, and the entire process was confirmed to have completed by NASA engineers at approximately 12:23 p.m. EST.
"The world's most sophisticated tripod has deployed," stated Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for Webb at Goddard. "That's really the way one can think of it. Webb's secondary mirror had to deploy in microgravity, and in extremely cold temperatures, and it ultimately had to work the first time without error. It also had to deploy, position, and lock itself into place to a tolerance of about one and a half millimeters, and then it has to stay extremely stable while the telescope points to different places in the sky-and that's all for a secondary mirror support structure that is over 7 meters in length."
The next deployment that JWST will attempt is its Aft Deployed Instrument Radiator (ADIR). This will begin the last of four launch locks that holds the ADIR in its launch configuration. The release of the last device will allow springs to drive the ADIR into its final deployed position. The first three launch locks were to prevent any unwanted strain in the system as the ADIR and telescope cools.
So far, JWST has worked flawlessly as it continues on its journey into space and to what scientists and astronomers hope will be the first of many images of deep space sent back to Earth. The teams have high hopes for what JWST can reveal and the mysteries of the universe it may unlock. But before it can do any of that, it must still complete the rest of the deployments necessary for the observatory to become fully functional. We all await with great anticipation for that day.