Universe  ID: 11152

400 Degrees Below

When the James Webb Space Telescope reaches its orbit about 1 million miles from Earth, it will operate at temperatures of almost 400 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. This frigid condition was chosen for a specific purpose: to optimize Webb's infrared sensitivity to see ancient stars and galaxies. Infrared can be thought of like heat radiation; the sun, Earth and stars all give off infrared light. In order to see faint and distant objects, Webb will need to stay very cold and deploy a huge sunshield to prevent stray infrared light from reaching its sensitive mirrors. Precise engineering is required to build multiple instruments that can operate in extreme cold and to construct a large spacecraft capable of unfolding in space. Watch the videos to see how Webb will deploy in space and to see a layer of its protective sunshield being spread out for testing.

Story Credits

Michael McClare (HTSI)

Michael McClare (HTSI)

Lead Writer:
Laura Betz (Telophase)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Sunshield photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman
OTE simulator photo courtesy of NASA Goddard/Chris Gunn
NIRCam photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin
MIRI photo courtesy of NASA Goddard
FGS photo courtesy of NASA Goddard
NIRspec photo courtesy of NASA Goddard

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