The James Webb Space Telescope is currently traveling through space on its way to its final orbit around the sun, and it has nearly completed the complex process of unfolding into its full form. NASA will shortly be broadcasting live coverage of the final stages of deployment, and we’ve got the details on how you can watch along at home.
Shortly after its launch on December 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope separated from the rocket which carried it out of Earth’s atmosphere and began to unfold. The observatory had to be folded up to fit inside the rocket, and over the last two weeks, it has been unfurling into its final configuration. That process is almost complete, with the last steps of the deployment expected to happen today.
So far the telescope has deployed its solar array just after launch, then deployed its forward and aft pallet structures which supports its huge sunshield. It unfolded a tower to provide separation between spacecraft and telescope, then a flap used for more efficient movement.
The big challenge was the deployment of the sunshield, which has five layers and is the size of a tennis court. With that deployed and tensioned, the secondary mirror was then deployed. Then there was the deployment of a radiator, and finally, the huge, hexagonal golden primary mirror began to be locked into place.
The final stage is the unfolding of the second primary mirror wing, which is scheduled for today. When that is done, the primary mirror will be in place and the telescope will be in its final form.
NASA will livestream coverage of the final stages of James Webb’s deployment today. The coverage is scheduled to begin no earlier than 9 a.m. ET (6 a.m. PT) on Saturday, January 8. Once the coverage of the deployment is complete, NASA will then hold a briefing with more information about the deployment process and the work James Webb will be doing.
To watch either the coverage or the briefing, you can tune into NASA’s TV channel. To do this, you can use the video player embedded near the top of this page or you can head to NASA’s webpage.
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