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The first six primary mirror segments being prepared for final cryogenic acceptance testing, 2011
The 18 main mirror segments for JWST in special shipping cans, 2012
Backplane being transported to California, 2013
Vacuum Chamber A prepared for the James Webb Space Telescope, 2014
Main mirror assembled, May 2016

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is an international 21st-century space observatory that was launched on 25 December 2021.[1][2] It is intended to be the premier observatory of the 2020s, combining the largest mirror yet on a near-infrared space telescope with a suite of technologically advanced instruments from around the world.[3]

The telescope is designed to last at least five and a half years (six months calibration plus five years science operations), but with a goal of ten years.[4] The limiting factor is expected to be fuel to maintain its halo orbit, of which there is enough for at least ten years.[4]

It was announced in December 2021 that due to the accuracy of the orbital insertion and course correction burns, the telescope had more fuel available than originally planned and could operate for "significantly" longer than the original ten year planned life span.[5]

JWST cost approximately $10 billion in its design, construction, and five years of operations (does not include extended mission funding), as well as international contributions.[6][7]

Timeline of selected events

Pre-launch plans


After-launch deployment

Nearly a month after launch, a trajectory correction was initiated to place the James Webb Space Telescope into a halo orbit at L2.[48][49] Its next five months were spent cooling NIRCam and the Mid-Infrared Instrument down further, aligning and calibrating its mirrors while focusing on HD 84406, a bright star in the constellation Ursa Major, and testing the instruments.[50][51][52][53]

First images

This frame is split down the middle. Webb’s mid-infrared image is shown at left, and Webb’s near-infrared image on the right. The mid-infrared image appears much darker, with many fewer points of light. Stars have very short diffraction spikes. Galaxies and stars also appear in a range of colors, including blue, green, yellow, and red. The near-infrared image appears busier, with many more points of light. Thousands of galaxies and stars appear all across the view. They are sharper and more distinct than what is seen in the mid-infrared view. Some galaxies are shades of orange, while others are white. Most stars appear blue with long diffraction spikes, forming an eight-pointed star shapes. There are also many thin, long, orange arcs that curve around the center of the image.[54]
Webb’s First Deep Field (MIRI and NIRCam Images Side by Side), showing SMACS J0723.3-7327.[54]

Webb's first operational image was the Webb's First Deep Field, released on July 11, 2022, with it being the deepest sharp infrared image of the universe to date.[55] The rest of the first set of images was released the next day, which include full-color processed images of the Carina Nebula, Southern Ring Nebula, Stephan's Quintet, as well as spectroscopic data of WASP-96b.[56][57]


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