The James Webb telescope in space will study the universe for 10 years

Mission started with the launch from French Guiana

The James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful ever built, was launched into space. The telescope took off from French Guiana in the early Italian afternoon of 25 December. The launch is a fundamental step in the project developed by NASA, the European agency ESA and the Canadian CNSA. Webb will study the universe from the position it is expected to reach within 4 weeks, about 1.5 million km from Earth. The mission is expected to last 10 years.

The telescope, which boasts a segmented mirror of 6.5 meters in diameter, will devote most of its time to “General Observer” programs, a series of projects proposed by the astronomical community around the world to study distant stars and planets. , as well as very distant galaxies, the first to have formed in the history of the universe. In the first round of operations, these schedules will amount to approximately 6000 hours, or 250 days.

At the helm of a third of the proposals, selected last April, there are researchers from ESA member countries and among them, nine have a principal investigator working in Italy. Seven of them, under the National Institute of Astrophysics, will use JWST to study a series of phenomena: brown dwarfs, bodies halfway between planets and stars; the birth of stars in “extreme” environments; the origin of the powerful jets of matter during star formation; how the most massive galaxies in the universe are formed; the role of supermassive black holes in galactic evolution; the first generation of stars of the cosmos.

“The James Webb telescope is the most powerful space observatory ever built and I am extremely happy for today’s launch, a crucial milestone awaited with enormous trepidation by the entire world astronomical community”, comments Marco Tavani, president of the National Institute of Astrophysics. .

“Webb will scan our Universe in depth with an extraordinary capacity compared to the other great space telescope, the Hubble, which everyone knows by now – he adds – In fact, we expect Webb to do even better, much better. The beginnings of the Universe, the first galaxies, their evolution up to the accessible cosmos near us and extra-solar planets will be some of Webb’s exciting scientific goals. ”