A million miles from Earth, the James Webb Space Telescope fired its rockets Monday and went into orbit around the sun. The operation went just as intended, NASA said, and in June it could begin making observations, sending back information from 13.7 billion years ago.
“We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
The telescope was launched on Christmas Day from French Guiana and will spend as many as 20 years probing deep space for information about the dawn of time and the atmospheres of planets and other objects in our solar system.
First, though, there are more things that need to go right. While the month since the Webb telescope left Earth has gone great, its mirrors need to align properly and its instruments need to be calibrated to send back useful information.
“We’re a month in and the baby hasn’t even opened its eyes yet,” Jane Rigby, the operations project scientist, told the Associated Press about the telescope’s infrared instruments. “But that’s the science that we’re looking forward to.”
The 7-ton, $10 billion telescope reached the second Lagrange point Monday, a spot where Earth and the sun’s gravitational forces are in balance.
If all goes well, Webb should be able to provide insight on a time just 100 million years after the Big Bang, a time when stars and galaxies first started to form.