Artist illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope

An artist's concept of the Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

Webb Telescope

What is the James Webb Space Telescope?

The James Webb Space Telescope is an infrared observatory that will orbit about 1 million miles from Earth to find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe and to see stars forming planetary systems.

Goals The James Webb Space Telescope is an infrared observatory that will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity.
Launch Date Dec. 25, 2021 | 12:20 UTC
Science Targets Beyond Our Solar System
Type Orbiter
Agency NASA
Mission Website & Blog
James Webb Space Telescope
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launches on Dec. 25, 2021, at 7:20 a.m. EST on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

About the Webb Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope – sometimes called JWST or Webb – is NASA’s largest and most powerful space science telescope. It is a premier observatory with a large infrared telescope that has an approximately 6.5-meter primary mirror.

Webb will study every phase in the history of our universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the big bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own solar system. It will build on the Hubble Space Telescope's discoveries.

Webb launched Dec. 25, 2021, on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on the northeastern coast of South America. ESA (European Space Agency) provided the Ariane 5.

James Webb After Separation from rocket
The James Webb Space Telescope is on its own after separating from the Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket that launched it into space. The spacecraft separated from the rocket 27 minutes into the flight at an altitude of approximately 870 miles (1,400 kilometers). Credit: NASA TV

On Jan. 8, 2022, the Webb team fully deployed the telescope's 21-foot, gold-coated primary mirror, successfully completing the final stage of all major spacecraft deployments to prepare for science operations.

“The successful completion of all of the Webb Space Telescope’s deployments is historic,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb program director at NASA Headquarters. “This is the first time a NASA-led mission has ever attempted to complete a complex sequence to unfold an observatory in space – a remarkable feat for our team, NASA, and the world.”

The observatory is on its way to an orbit about 1 million miles away from Earth. Astronomers worldwide will then be able to conduct scientific observations to broaden our understanding of the universe.

Webb was formerly known as the "Next Generation Space Telescope" (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after former NASA administrator James Webb.

Webb is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute is operating Webb after launch.

James Webb Space Telescope Mission Website

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