A new NASA telescope and a search target for our space have been announced

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A new NASA telescope and a search target for our space have been announced

We sent those questions to the experts: Sara Seager, a planetary scientist and astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Matt Mountain, Webb’s telescope scientist; and NASA’s Stefanie Milam, the JWST deputy project scientist for planetary science.

How much did the telescope cost to make?

How long did the telescope take to build?

Stefanie Milam: To build, launch and commission the Webb telescope, it cost NASA $8.8 billion. When you include operation costs, it brings the total bill to more than $9.66 billion.

Story Highlights

  • CNN asked readers what you want to know about the telescope and its mission.

  • Here’s what they said.

Milam: In the late ’80s, Webb moved from an idea to a real mission concept. In 1996, there was a formal recommendation to build a space-based infrared telescope.

In 2004, construction began and was completed in 2019 with the final assembly of the parts.

What are the telescope’s main tasks? Matt Mountain: This is the most complex telescope ever built, so first it must work.

Second, we want to peer more deeply into parts of the universe we have never seen. We want to be able to look back in time to see how the first stars and galaxies came into existence. We want to see how stars are formed into molecular clouds. Then we want to explore nearby stars that have planets to see if we can find water on their surface. This is the first sign that there may be life there.

How does the telescope work? Milam: It works by pointing the telescope at any object in space. Light is then reflected to the primary mirror to the secondary into the instrument module when images and spectra (light waves) are collected. We then send that data down to Earth.

How far away will the telescope be able to see? Sara Seager: The telescope can see back in time over 13 billion light-years. If we want to translate that into a distance, it’s 80 billion trillion miles away.

Mountain: With the Hubble Telescope, we could see back 13.5 billion years and see galaxies, but that wasn’t enough. We need to push past the Hubble to see what those first galaxies and stars come from and how they were created. With the Webb Telescope, we can push back to within 100 million years of the big bang, capturing light that has traveled for 13.6 billion years. NASA put it this way: “Hubble can see the equivalent of ‘toddler galaxies’ and Webb Telescope will be able to see ‘baby galaxies.’” How deep into space will this telescope see compared to other telescopes?