2018 turns to 2019 for Webb Space Telescope

NASA says it’s moving the launch date for its $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope from October 2018 to the spring of 2019, citing a longer-than-expected process of integrating elements of the house-sized spacecraft. The latest delay for the oft-postponed launch was announced Sept. 28 after a routine schedule assessment.

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All systems go for testing Webb Telescope

James Webb Space Telescope
Engineers conduct a white-light inspection on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in the clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. (Credit: Chris Gunn / NASA)

After years of busted budgets and stretched timelines, NASA says its $8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope is ready for testing and on track for launch in 2018.

The telescope, seen as a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, is designed to capture images of the first galaxies ever formed and provide unprecedented data about planets circling distant stars.

“Today, we’re celebrating the fact that our telescope is finished, and we’re about to prove that it works,” Nobel-winning astrophysicist John Mather, the telescope’s senior project scientist, told reporters at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland today.

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NASA finishes huge mirror for Webb Telescope

Image: Webb Telescope mirror
The James Webb Space Telescope’s 18 mirrors are fully installed. (Credit: Chris Gunn / NASA)

NASA has put the 18th and final piece of the puzzle into place for the $8.8 billionJames Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror – marking a major milestone on the way to the observatory’s launch in 2018.

The 21.3-foot-wide mirror is so big it couldn’t be fabricated in one piece. Instead, it’s made up of 18 hexagonal segments, each spanning a little more than 4 feet and weighing about 88 pounds. The last segment was carefully laid into place using a clawlike robotic arm at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland on Feb. 3.

“With the mirrors finally complete, we are one step closer to the audacious observations that will unravel the mysteries of the universe,” John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said in a news release.

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Universe Today

New index sizes up habitability of alien planets

Image: James Webb Space Telescope
NASA’s James Webb Telescope, shown in this artist’s conception, will provide more data about exoplanets. A new habitability index is aimed at helping scientists prioritize the search. (Credit: NASA)

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory have devised a new habitability index for judging how suitable alien planets might be for life, and the top prospects on their list are an Earthlike world called Kepler-442b and a yet-to-be confirmed planet known as KOI 3456.02.

Those worlds both score higher than our own planet on the index: 0.955 for KOI 3456.02 and 0.836 for Kepler-442b, compared with 0.829 for Earth and 0.422 for Mars. The point of the exercise is to help scientists prioritize future targets for close-ups from NASA’s yet-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope and other instruments.

Get the full story at Universe Today.