With the James Webb Space Telescope’s 9th of 18 mirror segments installed as of last week, we’re that much closer to hunting for signs of life on alien worlds and making our universe a little less lonely.
A third of the mirrors were installed by 17 December, 2015, but now we’re up to a full half! Image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
Now we’re pleased to celebrate that as of 22 December, fully nine of the eighteen primary mirror segments are polished to perfection and nestled snugly in place.
Technicians began installing the mirror segments on 22 November, 2015. Image credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
The hexagonal mirror segments are 1m, 8cm in diameter, and fit together to form a single 6m, 10cm primary mirror for the telescope. The unique construction allows the telescope to tuck into a smaller volume for launch then unfold in mechanical origami once in space. It also allow for a much larger primary mirror: when completed, the James Webb Space Telescope will dwarf Hubble with its capacity to gather light.
Hubble is but a wee speck of glass compared to the enormous James Webb. Image credit: NASA
You can watch construction from home by peeking in on the cleanroom webcam. The team is currently on break, but mirror assembly will continue in the new year. The telescope is currently scheduled to launch in 2018.
Top image: 9 of 18 mirror segments! Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn