Science & Tech

NASA’s most powerful telescope ever makes first breakthrough

NASA’s most powerful telescope was launched into space on Christmas Day – and they’ve already had their first breakthrough.

The James Webb Telescope is a space telescope launched to expand scientists’ knowledge of the universe. NASA has been working on the project since 1996 and was completed 20 years later in 2016.

The space agency now expects the science instrument to last “significantly” longer than predicted, with a life expectancy of more than ten years.

Due to the successful launch last week, the flight will now have enough fuel to “allow support of science operations for significantly more than a ten-year science lifetime”, Nasa said. The mission will take at least five years to complete.

It will look back in time to learn more about stars and galaxies’ formation and determine how the first galaxies formed. It will also give scientists valuable insight into space matter as it aims to discover details of the mystery substance that makes up the vast majority of matter.

Led by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency, the space telescope is partly powered by solar panels while also relying on more traditional propellant to allow it to orient itself.

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During the space telescope construction, the UK played a significant role.

It was responsible for the overall design of the MIRI, the Mid-Infrared Instrument that can see the faint light from the most distant stars and can see through dust and gas to spot stars being born.

Praising the UK’s role in the project, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today’s launch also shows the enormous value of investing in our science and research base and cementing the UK’s position as a global science superpower – not only to give us a glimpse of galaxies beyond our own but also to support skilled jobs and boost investment here at home.”

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