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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Nasa names new space telescope
James Webb Space Telescope
Bigger and further away than the Hubble Space Telescope

The US space agency's new space telescope will be named after James E Webb, the administrator of Nasa during the Apollo lunar exploration era.

It has also been announced that the TRW company of California will build the $824.8m telescope due for launch in 2010.

It will be placed 1.5 million kilometres (940,000 miles) from Earth at Lagrange Point 2, an area in space that is balanced between the gravity of the Earth and the Sun.

The telescope will be shaded from sunlight by a shield enabling it to stay cold, increasing its sensitivity to infrared, or heat, radiation from deep space.

Segmented mirror

The James Webb Space Telescope will have a light-collecting mirror of at least six metres (20 feet) in diameter, more than twice the 2.4-m (8-ft) mirror of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The larger mirror, along with the orbital position of the craft, will enable the new telescope to probe deeper into the Universe than Hubble.

Its mirror will be segmented and folded during launch and the three-month voyage to Lagrange Point 2. Once there, it will be unfolded automatically.

James E. Webb
James E. Webb
There will be three principal instruments onboard, all designed to gather images of the Universe in the infrared region of the spectrum. Astronomers say these instruments will enable the Webb telescope to gather new information about how stars and galaxies formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

The late James E Webb was Nasa's second administrator, serving from 1961 to 1968, regarded by many as a golden period of space exploration.

"It is fitting that Hubble's successor be named in honour of James Webb. Thanks to his efforts, we got our first glimpses at the dramatic landscapes of outer space," said current Nasa Administrator Sean O'Keefe.

"He took our nation on its first voyages of exploration, turning our imagination into reality. Indeed, he laid the foundations at Nasa for one of the most successful periods of astronomical discovery."

See also:

14 Apr 00 | Science/Nature
28 Jun 99 | Science/Nature
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