QUO Fast Radio Bursts

Future Missions E4: A Telescope for the Past (Pt.2)

July 26, 2021 Queen's Observatory Season 2 Episode 9
QUO Fast Radio Bursts
Future Missions E4: A Telescope for the Past (Pt.2)
Show Notes


  • In the last episode (it has been a while, go back and listen to it), we talk about the science goals of the JWST mission.
  • Today, we will talk about the technologies in the JWST mission.


  • JWST is currently scheduled to be launched in Nov 2021.
  • The James Webb Space Telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch vehicle is part of the European contribution to the mission. 
  • Webb will be launched from Arianespace's ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. It is beneficial for launch sites to be located near the equator - the spin of the Earth can help give an additional push. The surface of the Earth at the equator is moving at 1670 km/hr. 


  • - The James Webb Space Telescope will actually orbit the Sun, 1.5 million kilometers (1 million miles) away from the Earth at what is called the second Lagrange point or L2
  • What is special about this orbit is that it lets the telescope stay in line with the Earth as it moves around the Sun. This allows the satellite's large sunshield to protect the telescope from the light and heat of the Sun and Earth (and Moon). 


  • Webb primarily observes infrared light, which can sometimes be felt as heat. Because the telescope will be observing the very faint infrared signals of very distant objects, it needs to be shielded from any bright, hot sources.
  • The sunshield serves to separate the sensitive mirrors and instruments from not only the Sun and Earth/Moon.

Technical Advantages:

  • Near-infrared detectors technology is also being used for Earth science and national security missions. An early pathfinder version of Webb’s HAWAII-2RG 4 Megapixel array has been used in several NASA missions including Hubble, Deep Impact/EPOXI, WISE, and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, and the HAWAII-2RG is already in use at dozens of ground-based observatories around the world.
  • To solve the vibration problem at low temperature, 4D Technology Corporation of Tucson, Arizona has developed several new types of high-speed test devices that utilize pulsed lasers that essentially “freeze out” the effects of vibration.
  • Restoring Hubble: Webb investments in cryogenic Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) led to the development of the ASICs that are now flying on the Hubble Space Telescope. 
  • Webb’s mirror and laser eye surgery: The Webb telescope program has enabled a number of improvements in measurement technology for measurement of human eyes, diagnosis of ocular diseases and potentially improved surgery.

Links to Science Outreach Material:

Special thanks to Colin Vendromin for the music also thanks to Zac Kenny for the logo!