The most powerful telescope to go into space was successfully launched on Christmas Day.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was on an Ariane 5 rocket when it left the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, and aims to help to answer unsolved questions about the universe.
Also known as simply “Webb”, the James Webb Telescope is a space telescope that was launched in order to expand scientists’ knowledge of the universe.
It’s going into space to look back in time, aiming to discover more about the formation of stars and galaxies and to determine how the first galaxies formed.
The mission is led by Nasa, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency, but the UK played a major role by leading the European Consortium which, partnered with US institutes, designed, built and tested one of the four main science instruments, the MIRI.
The project has been in the making since 1996, was completed in 2016 and has the potential to make breakthroughs in the field of astronomy.
But how can you track just where the telescope is?
Here is everything you need to know about it.
How can I track the James Webb Space Telescope?
If you want to keep tabs on just how the JWST is progressing in its mission to document the stars, Nasa have handily set up an intriguing website which gives you all the data you could want.
The Where is Webb? website displays everything from the time elapsed since the mission’s launch, to how far is left for the instrument to travel before it reaches its final orbital height.
One of the more fascinating details is the live updates of the temperatures on James Webb’s hot and cold side: at the time of writing, the hot side (that which faces the sun) was a balmy 54c, while the cold side was enduring average temperatures of a frigid -193c.
The site also provides detailed analysis of mission critical moments, such as the unfurling of the telescope’s fragile but all-important sunshield, which has thankfully gone off without a hitch.
It’s also a great resource for links to further reading on the science behind the mission, as well as video documentation of major milestones in the deployment of James Webb.
All in all, whether you’re using the site as an educational tool to get youngsters enthused in space exploration, or just consider yourself a bit of an astronomy fan looking to keep up to date with the latest developments, it’s a valuable tool.
Where is the James Webb telescope?
As to ‘where’ the telescope actually is, that’s a bit trickier to pin down.
Though the Where is Webb? site provides detailed information on the telescope’s distance from Earth and its speed as it cruises through space, it’s harder to visualise just ‘where’ it is in relation to our planet.
Unlike the International Space Station, which orbits a relatively low 250 miles above our planet’s surface, and can therefore appear ‘overhead’, at the time of writing, James Webb is approximately 740,000 miles further away.
With its final resting place in space roughly 1 million miles from Earth, the answer to just ‘where’ the telescope is gets a little more abstract.
But the website should nonetheless give you a good idea of the mission’s progression.
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