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NASA gets ready to assemble next generation big telescope

Washington, Feb 5 (): The US space agency, NASA, said Monday its next-generation James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the 24-year-old Hubble Space Telescope, is on track for a planned launch in 2018 and all the pieces of the most powerful space telescope ever are ready for assembly at NASA.

NASA said the James Webb Space Telescope will be the most powerful space telescope ever erected, capable of spotting the most distant objects in the universe, providing pictures of the first galaxies formed, and spotting unknown planets around distant stars.

18 mirror segments will be combined to form the 21-foot-wide main mirror of the huge space telescope, the space agency said and that the four science instruments will be placed inside the heart of the telescope.

The telescope’s four main science instruments are now all in one place. When assembled in space, they will create the largest orbiting mirror ever seen. Assembling of the instruments is taking place in a vast clean room at the Goddard Space Flight Center in suburban Maryland. The final pieces have arrived at the spot, and now the two to three-year task of assembling the telescope has started.

James Webb Space Telescope has a mirror six times larger in area than the Hubble’s and so the possibilities of the Webb telescope are dramatic. The James Webb Space Telescope is designed to see to the time when stars began to form in the universe.

The Hubble has been able to look back to 800 million years after the big bang, an extraordinary achievement but considerably lesser than the ability of the Webb telescope.

The first stars in the universe are thought to have been 30 to 300 times as huge as our sun and millions of times as bright. They would have burned for only a few million years before dying in tremendous explosions, or supernovae. The Webb will be able to detect the earliest of these explosions.