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James Webb Space Telescope is set to launch December 2021

This will be the largest and most advanced telescope to ever be launched into space.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After 40 million hours of work by thousands of scientists from around the world, the James Webb Space Telescope is ready to enter the Final Frontier. It is set to launch from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana on December 18, 2021, and it will be the largest telescope ever put into space, according to NASA.

Most of us know about the Hubble telescope that launched in 1990. Hubble, much like humans, sees mainly visible light. What makes Webb different and so special is its ability to see in the infrared, a wavelength the human eye cannot pick up. Seeing in the infrared is important because it will help scientists view a whole new stretch of time and space due to a process called redshifting. 

Redshifting occurs when the wavelength that an object emits gets longer or is stretched. As a celestial object gets older it shifts from emitting visible light to a slower wavelength of infrared. Some of the oldest stars, planets, and galaxies are only emitting in the infrared, which means we have never been able to see them, until now!

The James Webb Telescope will not only be able to see billions of light-years away, but it will also be able to study the atmospheric composition of other planets. Understanding what other planets are made of can help to determine if there is water present and if there is potential for that planet to be habitable.

Once Webb is in space, it can do some pretty cool stuff, but getting it there, is a whole other challenge. The telescope is about as long and wide as a tennis court and has a 21-foot mirror that stands on top of that. It will have to fold up into thirds one way, and in half the other just to be small enough to fit inside a rocket for its million-mile ride to space. One in space, the telescope will enter a six-month commissioning period where it unfolds, cools off, and gets in the proper position to take pictures of the universe as we have never seen before.

If you would like to keep up with the latest information on the James Webb Telescope you can follow @NASAWebb on Twitter.