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The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space telescope designed primarily to conduct infrared astronomy. As the largest optical telescope in space, its greatly improved infrared resolution and sensitivity allow it to view objects too early, distant, or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope.

The tenuous atmosphere above the 400 km nominal flight altitude has no measurable absorption so that detectors operating wavelengths from 5 μm to 1000 μm can achieve high radiometric.

This is expected to enable a broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology, such as observation of the first stars and the formation of the first galaxies, and detailed atmospheric characterization of potentially habitable exoplanets.

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The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on 25 December 2021 on an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, and arrived at the Sun–Earth L2 Lagrange point in January 2022. The first image from JWST was released to the public via a press conference on 11 July 2022. The telescope is the successor of the Hubble as NASA’s flagship mission in astrophysics.

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JWST’s primary mirror consists of 18 hexagonal mirror segments made of gold-plated beryllium, which combined create a 6.5-meter-diameter (21 ft) mirror, compared with Hubble’s 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in).

This gives JWST a light-collecting area of about 25 square meters, about six times that of Hubble. Unlike Hubble, which observes in the near ultraviolet and visible (0.1 to 0.8 μm), and near infrared (0.8–2.5 μm) spectra, JWST observes in a lower frequency range, from long-wavelength visible light (red) through mid-infrared (0.6–28.3 μm). The telescope must be kept extremely cold, below 50 K (−223 °C; −370 °F), such that the infrared light emitted by the telescope itself does not interfere with the collected light.

It is deployed in a solar orbit near the Sun–Earth L2 Lagrange point, about 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 mi) from Earth, where its five-layer sunshield protects it from warming by the Sun, Earth, and Moon.


Telescope alignment over instrument fields of view. After fine phasing, the telescope will be well aligned at one place in the NIRCam field of view. Now the alignment must be extended to the rest of the instruments.

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