NASA’s Successor Of Hubble Telescope Features Giant Gold-Covered Mirror

By Victor Thomson , May 03, 2016 07:19 AM EDT

The much-anticipated successor to Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Telescope, is set to launch in 2018. The mirror segment of the telescope has been unveiled at the American space agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on April 27.

The James Webb Space Telescope is considered to be the "most powerful space telescope ever built." The new space telescope is a collaborative project between the European Space Agency (ESA), the Canadian Space Agency and NASA.

The heart of the next-generation orbiting observatory is a 18-segment mirror network the size of a tennis court, which is coated with gold.

Tech Times reports that each of the hexagonal mirror segments is coffee table-sized and weights around 45 pounds. The mirror segments are made of lightweight beryllium, a dull gray toxic metal. Their surface has a shiny look, being covered in a layer of vaporized gold that is just a few atoms thick.

The gold layer has the role to improve the infrared light reflectivity of the mirrors. By increasing the mirrors' infrared light reflectivity, the telescope will be able to capture the faint infrared glow of the oldest stars and galaxies in the universe.

Each mirror segment features several motors underneath. They enable the team on the ground to focus the telescope when it is in orbit.

NASA wrote in a press release that scientists from around the world will have access to use the space telescope to capture spectra and images to the full range of astronomical sources, including the first galaxies to appear in the early universe, star-forming nebulae and even planets and moons within our own Solar System.

According to Ames Tribune, the next-generation space telescope is set to launch from French Guiana in October 2018, aboard the Ariane 5 rocket. Several tests will be performed in order to ensure that the new space telescope will survive the space launch.

Among the challenges the team is facing is finding the best way to fold the telescope's structure into a shape fitting on the tip of the Ariane 5 rocket. In the succeeding months, there will also be installation to be conducted for additional safety measures and key elements.

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