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The James Webb Space Telescope

Episode 1 of 2

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 30 April 2009

Meet the scientists behind the James Webb Space Telescope, the gigantic successor to the Hubble Telescope. In the first of two programmes on modern day telescope builders and astronomers, Andrew Luck-Baker talks to some of the 2,000 strong team constructing a telescope unlike any that has been sent into space before.

When launched in 2014, JWST will have by far the largest mirror on a space telescope - 6.5 metres across. It also needs to sit behind a giant sunshield so that it can chill to the temperature of deep space. The sun shade covers the area of a tennis court.

One chief goal is be to see deeper into the cosmos than even Hubble has allowed. The further astronomers see, the further back through the Universe's history they voyage. With JWST, NASA scientists hope to see the very first stars to light up after the Big Bang, almost 14 billion years ago. Before these primordial stars, the Universe was just a void of cool, gaseous darkness. JWST should reveal how and when these stars transformed the infant Universe into a place where planets and people were possible.
Producer: Andrew Luck-Baker.


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