Image of the Day: Hubble’s Successor –The James Webb Space Telescope’s Mega Mirror


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This image shows the huge $20 million, honeycomb-like mirror that will unlock unsolved mysteries of Universe for the infrared-optimized James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) when it is eventually launched into orbit in 2018. After settling 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, the telescope will collect infrared light emitted by galaxies more than 13 billion light years away, enabling astronomers to look back through time at the early stages of the universe's life.

To fit inside its rocket, the JWST's 6.5-metre-high reflector, six times larger than Hubble's, is folded into 18 hexagonal pieces, which will assemble to function as a single giant mirror once the telescope is in orbit. The mirror is made of beryllium – a material that despite its lightness is strong enough to survive a rocket's violent launch and temperatures of -223 °C or lower. The honey glow comes from a thin coating of gold, added to improve the reflection of infrared rays.

Image Credit: David Higginbotham/NASA/MSFC


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