An Eye in the Sky

September 9, 2016
CHRIS GUNN—NASA

Scientists are building a powerful telescope. It will help them see deep into space.

More than 400 years ago, Galileo Galilei built a telescope. He was an Italian scientist. He used the telescope to study space. Since then, scientists have used telescopes to make big discoveries. The Hubble Space Telescope was sent to space in 1990. It has sent back more than a million pictures.

Workers stand in front of the telescope’s mirrors.

CHRIS GUNN—NASA

Soon, a new telescope will take over for Hubble. It is the James Webb Space Telescope. It is also called JWST, and Webb.

In 2018, a rocket will take JWST into space. The new telescope will explore farther into space than Hubble. It will travel a million miles from Earth. This will give scientists a better view of the universe. “Hubble rewrote astronomy textbooks,” Maggie Masetti told TFK. She works on the Webb project. “Webb is going to do the same thing.”

On the Hunt

Like Hubble, Webb will look for galaxies far away. The telescope will also hunt for planets that are like Earth. It will do this by looking for light. Webb’s mirror will collect light from objects in space. Its special camera and tools will be able to find light that the human eye cannot see.

This is Webb’s sunshield. It has five layers and is about the length of a tennis court.

CHRIS GUNN—NASA

In the future, there will be more telescopes like Webb. “By the time kids grow up,” says Masetti, “the things they learn about the universe will be totally different from the things we think we know now.”

THE HUBBLE HERITAGE TEAM (STSCI/AURA), ESA, NASA

Hubble's View

It has been nearly 26 years since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. It has sent back more than a million pictures. Scientists have seen stars being born. They have studied faraway planets. Hubble’s powerful eye has helped us understand space. The telescope still has 10 years of life left. What more will it find?

Think!

What skills and knowledge are needed to build this telescope?

A Powerful New Tool

The James Webb Space Telescope will launch in 2018. Read about the telescope. Then answer the questions.

NORTHROP GRUMMAN

1. What are the parts of the main mirror shaped like?

2. How many parts is the main mirror made of?

3. What does the backplane do?

4. How big is the sunshield?