Science

Here’s how to track the progress of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA’s new $ 10 billion observatory is completing a harrowing sequence of steps to reach its final configuration and location.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s “29 days to the limit,” as NASA has called the long and complex deployment process, began when the spacecraft launched on Saturday (December 25). Since then, the observatory has reached key milestones such as unfolding its solar array and adjusting its trajectory. There are still steps like opening your sun visor and fixing your mirrors.

You can track the observatory throughout the process on NASA’s dedicated mission website. The website includes details on the location and speed of the spacecraft.

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A still image from a video showing the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope. (Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Imaging Laboratory)

Even with just a few days’ travel, Webb has already covered more than a third of the distance to its final orbit, circling a point known as L2, or the Earth-sun Lagrange point 2. Here, nearly 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth on the opposite side from the sun, the gravitational pulls of the sun and Earth balance out, creating a relatively stable environment for spacecraft.

Once Webb’s temperature sensors are deployed, the dash will also provide temperatures for both the hot side of the spacecraft, which faces the sun, and the cold side, which will be protected by the huge sunshade.

The main dashboard also includes details on the most recent deployment stage that Webb has completed, with information drawn from NASA’s main deployment timeline.

If all goes according to plan, the telescope will fully unfold 13 days after launch, around January 7, and reach its final orbit 29.5 days after launch. The observatory will then undergo five months of commissioning to prepare its instruments and mirror for scientific work, expected to begin in the summer of 2022.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@ or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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