The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the next of NASA's Great Observatories, following in the line of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma-ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. JWST combines qualities of two of its predecessors, observing in infrared light, like Spitzer, with fine resolution, like Hubble.
The telescope has a 6.5-meter mirror composed of 18 hexagonal segments in a honeycomb pattern. Protecting the sensitive research instruments is a large sunshield about the size of a tennis court. Further protection comes from the observatory's remote location in a place called the second LaGrange point (L2). Orbiting the Sun at L2, JWST will be about a million miles from Earth (roughly four times more distant than the Moon) and will always be positioned with the Earth and the Sun in the same direction, behind its sunshield.
In this animation, designed as an homage to a shot from "2001: A Space Odyssey," pans past a model of JWST at L2. The opening of the sequence illustrates the L2 location, showing Earth in the mid-ground, and the Sun in the background. Later in the sequence, notice the reflection of the secondary mirror sweeping across the primary mirror.
Animation: SkyWorks Digital
3D Model: Northrop Grumman
Production: December 6, 2010
Publication: February 25, 2014