Telescope’s payoff to be, well, cosmic

Besides being significantly larger than its predecessor, the Hubble, this new telescope can see infrared light, allowing it to peer through the veil of dust that obscures some regions of space.

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Editorials

January 4, 2022 - 9:16 AM

The project has been in the works for years. In 2017, Joel Green, an astrophysicist, talks about how the James Webb Space Telescope works as he stands next to a model of it at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Boston. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

Like many other packages delivered on Dec. 25, a new telescope arrived in space Saturday with some assembly required.

The gradual unfolding of the James Webb Space Telescope, currently en route to its station 930,000 miles from Earth, is high drama. The long years of development, complete with the invention of several new technologies and the investment of billions of dollars, now depend for their success on many things going right.

With hundreds of things that could go wrong on its 29-day journey, Webb — which is named after the man who led NASA from 1961 to 1968 — represents a gamble of appropriately astronomical proportions.

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