NASA to live-stream launch of £7.5bn alien-hunting time machine telescope

Professor Martin Barstow, chair of the Space Telescope Institute Council and director of strategic partnerships at Space Park Leicester told the Guardian that he was "excited and nervous at the same time" about the launch.

"It’s exciting to think that after so long, we might eventually get this telescope into space," he said.

"But I’m nervous because we all know that however good the rocket is, there are risks in getting there, and a whole lot of things have to go perfectly for us to have a working telescope."

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The James Webb telescope will offer significant improvements on its predecessor, the Hubble.

Mark McCaughrean, senior advisor for science and exploration at the ESA, told Space.com: "Hubble had a whole bunch of top-line goals, many of which were like 20 years old.

"By the time they built it, science had moved, science had changed in some areas.

"And one of the things that astronomers discovered in the 1980s was that galaxies formed much earlier than expected."

The new telescope will be able to watch the formation of these ancient galaxies.

It won’t orbit the Earth as the Hubble space telescope does.

Instead, it will orbit the Sun, around a million miles from the Earth in a Lagrange point – a "dead zone" where the Earth’s and Sun’s gravitational fields cancel each other out.

The James Webb instrument is the largest, most sensitive telescope ever put in space as well as the most expensive.

Any rocket launch is still a dangerous procedure, and one tiny flaw could lead to disaster.

"I just want it to be there and working," Barstow said.

"There are thousands of astronomers waiting to use this telescope.

"It’s important to remember this is a huge endeavour. There will be a lot of people around the world biting their fingernails tomorrow."

  • Nasa
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