Credit the success of the James Webb space telescope in northern Alabama, professors say


HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – When the James Webb Space Telescope launches Saturday morning, some of northern Alabama’s brightest minds will deserve some of the credit, according to professors at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

“There is a very strong local connection to this telescope that I think everyone will be relieved to finally see the launch,” Patrick J. Reardon of the UAH’s Center for Applied Optics told News 19.

Saturday’s scheduled launch comes after scrubs due to the weather on December 22 and 24, respectively.

Reardon said the record breaking telescope wouldn’t be possible without its delicate components built in northern Alabama.

“(It took) businesses in town… NeXolve was making solar shields like never before,” Reardon said. “And even the mirrors we were testing at the Marshall Space Flight Center at 35 degrees Kelvin, very cold – almost minus 400 Fahrenheit – these were machined in Cullman, Alabama.”

When it finally leaves Earth, JWST’s infrared lens will take humanity to the unknown territories of space and, with it, study ancient solar systems as they appeared over ten billion years ago. years.

“This is important to us for several reasons,” said Gary Zenk, director of the UAH Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research. “On the one hand, it determines the makeup of the interstellar medium, but it also tells us a lot more about the makeup of the sun and why we see certain elements in the sun.”

James Hadaway of UAH saw the potential of the project when he worked on its design at the Marshall Space Flight Center in the early 90s.

“They asked me to lead a team to come up with the initial optical design,” Hadaway said. “Some of the methods and technologies that we have developed will be incorporated into the next generation of space telescopes. “

One constant, Reardon said, will be the role of northern Alabama and the UAH in exploring the Last Frontier.

“And it’s a great place because we’re involved in these spectacular programs and then forming the next group of scientists and engineers who are going to go beyond that,” Reardon said.

While waiting for further delays on Christmas morning, NASA will receive the first likely stunning photos from the telescope around June.


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