Science

The James Webb Space Telescope extends its tower assembly to make way for the deployment of parasols

The James Webb Space Telescope is one step closer to completing the deployment of its massive parasol.

On Wednesday (December 29), the huge new space observatory successfully extended its Deployable Tower Assembly (DTA), a 48-inch-long (1.2-meter) shaft connecting the two halves of the telescope, officials from the NASA in a statement.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s DTA creates the necessary space between the part of the telescope that houses its huge mirror and science instruments and the spacecraft’s bus, which houses its propulsion and electronics systems.

“This creates enough distance to allow sensitive mirrors and instruments to cool down to the temperatures necessary to detect infrared light,” NASA said in the statement. “This gap will also provide space for the sunshade membranes to fully unfold.”

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NASA engineers began broadcasting commands for the Webb telescope to begin extending DTA at approximately 9:45 a.m. EST (1445 GMT) on Wednesday. The entire process took six hours and 39 minutes, concluding at 4:24 p.m. EST (2124 GMT), NASA said in the statement.

The James Webb Space Telescope launched on December 25 and is currently on a 29-day journey to its destination: a gravitationally stable point 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth known as Lagrange Point 2 or L2. . It began deploying its massive parasol on Tuesday (December 28), a process that is expected to take about five days.

The five-layer hood will help keep Webb’s instruments and optics cool, a necessity for the observatory, which is optimized for viewing the cosmos in infrared light.

With the DTA now fully extended, Webb’s next steps will be to release the sunshade cover and aft thrust flap, which “will help offset some of the solar pressure impacting the large sunshade,” NASA said in a description of the deployment process. . Webb is expected to complete both steps on Thursday (December 30), after which he will be able to begin deploying his parasol on Friday (December 31).

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@ or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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