Veteran Hubble vs. new Webb space telescope


Do not put astronomers in the position of having to choose between the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope, which is the newest kid on the cosmic block.

In the words of Susan Mullally, deputy project scientist for the Webb Space Telescope at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, “comparing Hubble to Webb is like wondering if you will love your second kid as much as your first.”

“Hubble will be remembered for its awe-inspiring vistas of our cosmos for a long time to come, and it will continue to collect vital data for astronomers. Webb provides us with new and distinct perspectives on areas that we would otherwise be unable to visit.”

With NASA and the European Space Agency’s Hubble Space Telescope approaching its 32nd year in orbit, the larger, 100 times more powerful Webb Space Telescope is commonly regarded as its successor, despite the fact that the two are substantially different in design. It is scheduled to take out from the coast of South America on Saturday in the early morning.

The rundown on Hubble vs. Webb is as follows:


In 1990, Hubble was stashed away inside NASA’s space shuttle Discovery, which sent him into orbit. It rapidly ran into difficulties when one of the telescope’s solar wings stuck as it was being unfurled. Astronauts donned their spacesuits in preparation for an emergency spacewalk, but directives from Earth allowed the panel to be released. Hubble’s hazy vision was discovered a few weeks of his launch. Three years later, astronauts on spacewalks were able to fix it. With a European Ariane rocket carrying it from South America to its target one million miles (1.6 million kilometers away), Webb will be inaccessible to astronauts when they arrive at their destination. Webb, which is larger and more complex than Hubble, will be destroyed if its foldout mirror and sunshield become entangled.

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Webb is intended to see light from the universe’s initial stars and galaxies, which will be beyond the reach of Hubble’s telescope. This light will depict how the first stars appeared 13.7 billion years ago, when the universe was created. Hubble has looked as far back as 13.4 billion years, revealing a clumpy runt of a galaxy that is currently the oldest and farthest object ever observed, as well as the most distant object ever observed. Astronomers are keen to reduce the 300 million year gap with Webb and move ever closer in time to the Big Bang, which occurred 13.8 billion years ago and marked the beginning of the universe’s formation. “It’s like looking at a picture album of my children and not remembering the first two years of their lives, isn’t it? Investigating their origins and trying to figure out where they came from “NASA’s scientific chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, made the statement.


Hubble sees what we see – visible light, with a little ultraviolet and infrared thrown in for good measure – but not what we perceive. Webb is equipped with infrared vision, which allows it to see through cosmic dust clouds. As the universe expands, the shorter visible and ultraviolet wavelengths radiated by the initial stars and galaxies have been stretched, and Webb will view them in their elongated, heat-emitting infrared form. As a result, Webb’s detectors must operate at minus 400 Fahrenheit in order to function properly (minus 240 degrees Celsius). Webb carries a parasol the size of a tennis court around with him to keep cool. There is a space between each of the five layers of the sunshield, allowing heat to escape out the sides. In addition, many layers provide superior protection against micrometeorite impacts.

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For Webb to be able to detect the universe’s initial dim stars, he will need the largest telescope ever launched for astronomy. The mirror has a diameter of more than 21 feet (6.5 meters), yet it is significantly lighter than Hubble’s, which has a diameter of 8 feet (2.4 meters). This is due to the fact that Webb’s mirror is composed of beryllium, which is a strong yet lightweight metal. It’s also segmented, which allows it to fold down like a drop-leaf table when it’s time to launch. Designed to be the size of a coffee table, each of the 18 hexagonal segments is coated with ultra-thin gold, which is an excellent reflector of infrared light.


Hubble orbits the Earth at a distance of 330 miles (530 kilometers). Because of the capabilities of NASA’s space shuttles, which brought Hubble to orbit and later conducted five service calls, the height was determined. Webb is on his way to a more distant location – the second Lagrange point, which is 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away and 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) away. This is the point at where the gravitational forces of the Earth and the sun are balanced, requiring the least amount of fuel for a spaceship to remain in place. As the spacecraft and the planet swoop around the sun in tandem, Webb will be forced to always face the nightside of the planet.


By the time Hubble was launched into orbit in 1990, it had been years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget. Webb is likewise years behind schedule and has incurred massive cost overruns. NASA’s price for Hubble’s development and operation from the 1970s to the present day is $16 billion, adjusted for inflation. However, this does not include all of the shuttle trips for launch and repair purposes. The cost of Webb’s construction is anticipated to be $10 billion, which includes the first five years of operation. The European Space Agency is covering the costs of the launch, which will be carried out by a French-built Ariane rocket from French Guiana.

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In a century-old discovery, the astronomer Edwin Hubble revealed that many galaxies exist beyond our Milky Way and that the cosmos is expanding at an exponential rate. NASA was managed by James Webb from 1961 to 1968, during which time he presided over Mercury and Gemini, as well as the early stages of the Apollo moon-landing mission. A decade after Webb’s death, NASA decided to honor him by naming a new telescope in his honor. However, some scientists and others are calling for a new name, citing Webb’s State Department and NASA leadership during the Truman era, during which government employees were fired for being homosexual. According to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the agency’s historian undertook an archive search of Webb this year and found no indication that the name should be changed.

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