On Christmas Day, NASA is slated to launch one of its most anticipated spacecraft in decades: a next-generation observatory dubbed the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST. It’s taken roughly 25 years for NASA to get this vehicle ready for launch, and sending it to space is an incredibly complex endeavor. But if everything works out just right, JWST promises to see deeper into the Universe than ever before, peering at some of the most ancient stars and galaxies while deepening our understanding of astrophysics.
Follow along with all of our updates as NASA prepares to send this massive new telescope into space.
How the James Webb Space Telescope changed astronomy in its first year
As Christmas approached last year, astronomers and space fans around the globe gathered to watch the much-anticipated launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. Though a wondrous piece of engineering, the telescope was not without its controversies — from being way over budget and behind schedule to being named after a former NASA administrator who has been accused of homophobia.Read Article >
Despite the debates over the telescope’s naming and history, one thing has become abundantly clear this year — the scientific ability of JWST is remarkable. Beginning its science operations in July 2022, it has already allowed astronomers to get new views and uncover mysteries about a huge range of space topics.
Sep 21, 2022
NASA’s deep space telescope is having instrument trouble caused by “increased friction”
There’s a kink in one of the instruments in NASA’s powerful James Web Space Telescope, the agency said Tuesday. After around two months of sending back beautiful, precise photos from deep in space, the team behind the telescope detected an issue with one of the four observing modes on JWST’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). Observations using that mode are on pause while the team learns more.Read Article >
MIRI, the telescope’s mid-infrared instrument, can see wavelengths of light invisible to the human eye. It’s good for seeing clear details of things like newly forming stars. It was used to take the image of the galaxy group “Stephan’s Quintet,” for example.
Aug 23, 2022
Jupiter is glowing in new pictures from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
An early look at the view of Jupiter captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, hinted at how precise and detailed our new view of the planet would be. But this week, NASA released another set of photos showing the cloud cover, rings, and moons of Jupiter in remarkable detail — and it was even better than scientists were hoping for.Read Article >
“We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, professor emerita of the University of California, Berkeley, in a press release. “It’s really remarkable that we can see details on Jupiter together with its rings, tiny satellites, and even galaxies in one image.”
Jul 15, 2022
Jupiter photos from NASA’s new space telescope are teaser of Solar System images to come
After dazzling the world with the first images from the powerful James Webb Space Telescope this week, NASA released even more photos from the observatory yesterday, this time pictures from within our own Solar System. The space agency revealed the telescope’s images of the planet Jupiter, as well as an asteroid, used as reference targets when engineering teams were calibrating the observatory’s instruments.Read Article >
The pictures serve as a small teaser of the images we should be getting from our Solar System in the months and years to come. The James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, may be known for its ability to peer into some of the deepest recesses of the Universe, but scientists will also be using the telescope to study our own cosmic neighborhood in greater detail.
Jul 12, 2022
Marvel at the first batch of full-color images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
This morning, NASA released even more tantalizing images and data gathered by the agency’s powerful James Webb Space Telescope, showing off vibrant nebulas and exotic galaxies in unprecedented detail. The stunning debut of this cadre of images reveals the diversity of science the observatory will be capable of achieving while it’s in space.Read Article >
The images join the very first picture from the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, that NASA and President Joe Biden released yesterday during a special briefing at the White House. That first picture — a portion of the night sky called SMACS 0723 — showcased a dizzying array of thousands of distant galaxies, all bundled into just a tiny dot in the sky about the size of a grain of sand when held out an arm’s distance. NASA hailed the image as the deepest infrared image of the Universe ever taken. In fact, the light from some of the galaxies in the picture has traveled roughly 13 billion years to reach JWST.
Jul 11, 2022
Here’s the first full-color image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope
Today, NASA unveiled the first full-color image taken by the agency’s powerful James Webb Space Telescope, a pivotal moment for the deep-space observatory that marks the beginning of its first year of transformational science. The incredibly detailed image — a deep field of some of the most distant galaxies seen from Earth — showcases the mighty power of the telescope and serves as a teaser for even more awe-inspiring images of the Universe that are still to come.Read Article >
The picture is one of a handful of inaugural full-color images that NASA plans to release this week to celebrate the start of science operations for the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST. President Joe Biden and NASA administrator Bill Nelson unveiled the first picture this afternoon during a special last-minute briefing at the White House.
Jul 8, 2022
NASA teases list of first celestial objects imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope
Today, NASA released a list of celestial targets that will be revealed next week when the agency publishes the first full-color images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST. The targets include galaxies, nebulas, and a giant planet outside our Solar System.Read Article >
JWST is NASA’s massive new deep-space observatory, which launched on Christmas Day in 2021. Sporting a large gold-coated mirror spanning more than 21 feet across, the observatory is set to transform the field of astrophysics by collecting light from the first stars and galaxies that formed right after the Big Bang. It’s also designed to study objects throughout our Universe in unprecedented detail, giving us insight into our distant Solar System, planets outside our cosmic neighborhood, asteroids, exotic stars in the deepest reaches of space, and more.
Jul 7, 2022
How engineers got the world’s most powerful space telescope ready to do science
For the past six months, Scott Friedman and a team of roughly 160 scientists and engineers have been working through one of the most daunting to-do lists in all of science. Nearly every day, they dropped everything at 1:30PM ET to meet and find out how much closer they’ve gotten to their goal: getting NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful space observatory in history, fully operational.Read Article >
During each meeting, they reviewed all the work they had done over the last 24 hours with the observatory, which is currently zooming through deep space roughly 1 million miles from Earth. Sometimes their testing and measurements had gone well the day before, and they’d forge ahead with the next task. Other times, there’d be hiccups.
Jun 8, 2022
NASA’s new powerful space telescope gets hit by larger than expected micrometeoroid
NASA’s new powerful space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, got pelted by a larger than expected micrometeoroid at the end of May, causing some detectable damage to one of the spacecraft’s 18 primary mirror segments. The impact means that the mission team will have to correct for the distortion created by the strike, but NASA says that the telescope is “still performing at a level that exceeds all mission requirements.”Read Article >
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, is the agency’s incredibly powerful next-generation space telescope, designed to look into the farthest reaches of the Universe and see back in time to the stars and galaxies that formed just after the Big Bang. It cost NASA nearly $10 billion to build and more than two decades to complete. But, on Christmas Day 2021, the telescope finally launched to space, where it underwent an extremely complex unfolding process before reaching its final destination roughly 1 million miles from Earth.
Jan 25, 2022
What’s next for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now that it’s reached its parking spot
NASA’s next-generation James Webb Space Telescope may have reached its final parking spot in space, but there’s still a long road ahead for the observatory before it can start taking the dazzling pictures of the cosmos that scientists have been eagerly awaiting. Over the next five months, mission engineers will meticulously tweak and test the telescope in order to prepare the spacecraft for its lifelong mission of observing the Universe.Read Article >
Yesterday at around 2PM ET, the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, fired its onboard thrusters for a little less than five minutes, putting the vehicle into its final orbit in space. It was a crucial last step for JWST’s journey through the cosmos, capping off a 30-day voyage from the launchpad to its parking orbit roughly 1 million miles from Earth. During that time, the telescope underwent a complex unfolding and shapeshifting process, blossoming into its final form needed to collect light from distant stars and galaxies.
Jan 24, 2022
NASA’s revolutionary James Webb Space Telescope reaches final orbit in space
After traveling hundreds of thousands of miles through space over the last month, NASA’s revolutionary new James Webb Space Telescope performed its last big course correction maneuver this afternoon, putting itself into its final resting place in space. Now, the observatory will live in perpetuity at a distance of roughly 1 million miles from the Earth, giving the vehicle a front-row view of the most ancient stars and galaxies of the Universe.Read Article >
Launched on Christmas Day, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, has had a wild ride to its destination. Too enormous to fly to space in its final form, the telescope had to launch folded up inside its rocket. Once it reached space, JWST began an extremely complex routine of shape-shifting and unfurling, a type of choreography that no spacecraft had ever performed before. Yet JWST performed every step flawlessly, completing its major deployments on January 8th and blossoming into its full configuration.
Jan 4, 2022
NASA successfully deploys complex sunshield on James Webb Space Telescope
NASA’s next-generation James Webb Space Telescope has successfully deployed its sunshield — a critical feature the observatory will use to keep its instruments extra cold during the course of its mission. The unfurling of the sunshield marks the end of perhaps the most complicated deployment the observatory must pull off in order to properly function while in space.Read Article >
“This is a really big moment,” Bill Ochs, the project manager for JWST at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said to the mission team after the deployment was complete. “I just want to congratulate the entire team. We still got a lot of work to do but but getting the sunshield out and deployed is really, really big.”
Dec 28, 2021
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is about to transform into its final form
NASA’s incredibly powerful James Webb Space Telescope has been in space for three days now, but perhaps the riskiest part of its journey to deep space is just getting underway. Soon, the telescope will initiate an intricately choreographed mechanical dance as it slowly contorts its shape and unfurls, in order to reach its final form for observing the distant cosmos.Read Article >
It’s a type of reverse space origami that’s never been performed before, but it’s absolutely necessary for the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, to fulfill its mission. The telescope was simply too massive to launch on any operational rocket while fully extended. So when it catapulted into space on top of a European Ariane 5 rocket on Christmas Day, it made the nail-biting trip folded in on itself like the world’s most expensive Swiss Army knife.
Dec 25, 2021
NASA’s revolutionary James Webb Space Telescope successfully launches to space
Early Christmas morning, NASA’s revolutionary new space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, successfully launched into space after taking off on top of a European Ariane 5 rocket from South America. The launch marks the beginning of one of the most anticipated NASA missions in decades, a program that promises to transform how we study the deepest depths of the Universe.Read Article >
“From a tropical rainforest to the edge of time itself, James Webb begins a voyage back to the birth of the Universe,” Rob Navias, NASA’s announcer on the agency’s livestream, said at liftoff.
Dec 23, 2021
What to expect from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launch
On Christmas Day, NASA is gifting astronomers one of the greatest presents it can give by launching the most powerful space telescope ever created. Called the James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, the space observatory is meant to be the successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope already in orbit around Earth. And it promises to completely transform the way we study the cosmos.Read Article >
Sporting the biggest mirror of any space-bound telescope ever launched, JWST is tasked with collecting infrared light from some of the most distant stars and galaxies in the Universe. With this capability, the telescope will be able to peer far back in time, imaging some of the earliest objects to have formed just after the Big Bang. On top of that, it will unravel the mysteries of supermassive black holes, distant alien worlds, stellar explosions, dark matter, and more.
Dec 20, 2021
How scientists decided what the most powerful space telescope ever will look at first
In late March, Grant Tremblay was sitting at his computer at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, listening in on a Zoom meeting, when he saw a string of emails pop up in his inbox. The title of each email read: “Cycle 1 JWST Notification Letter.”Read Article >
He knew immediately that this was the day he and his colleagues in the astronomy community had been eagerly awaiting: it was Blacker Friday.
Dec 17, 2021
Vergecast: James Webb Space Telescope’s launch next week, cool gadgets launched this week
Every Friday, The Verge publishes our flagship podcast, The Vergecast, where co-hosts Nilay Patel and Dieter Bohn discuss the week in tech news with the reporters and editors covering the biggest stories. On the final Vergecast of 2021, Nilay and Dieter invite Verge managing editor Alex Cranz and senior space reporter Loren Grush to the show to cover the last bits of news before the holiday break.Read Article >
Next week on Christmas Eve, we will see the James Webb Space Telescope — successor to NASA’s famed Hubble telescope — finally launch into space. Loren explains what the JWST will be used for, how the telescope will launch, and the complications with its launch along the way.
Oct 12, 2021
NASA’s massive next-generation space telescope arrives in South America ahead of launch
After more than two decades of delays and ballooning development costs, NASA’s next-generation space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, has arrived in French Guiana, South America — the site of the spacecraft’s planned launch later this year. Its arrival sparks the beginning of weeks of final preparations before the telescope is loaded on the top of its rocket for flight.Read Article >
The James Webb Space Telescope, or JWST, spent 16 days at sea, packed inside an environmentally controlled, custom-built shipping container aboard a French cargo ship. The vessel transported the spacecraft from Redondo Beach, California, the site of the telescope’s primary contractor, Northrup Grumman. JWST had been at Northrop since early 2018, where it was undergoing final assembly and testing.
Sep 8, 2021
NASA sets new date for James Webb Space Telescope launch
The James Webb Space Telescope, humanity’s next big space-bound eye on the cosmos, has a new launch date of December 18th, NASA announced on Wednesday. It’s the latest among dozens of other delays for a telescope that was originally planned to go to space as early as 2007.Read Article >
The $8.8 billion observatory, named after NASA’s second administrator, is a tennis court-sized successor to NASA’s famed Hubble telescope. Its 18 hexagonal gold-plated mirrors will allow the spacecraft to view distant planets and the far reaches of the universe with a level of detail that far surpasses Hubble’s capabilities.
Jul 16, 2020
NASA delays the launch of its next powerful space observatory, the James Webb, by seven months
NASA has once again delayed the launch of its new powerful space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, mostly due to disruptions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently slated to fly in March of 2021, the massive telescope is now scheduled to launch on October 31st, 2021.Read Article >
The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, had already predicted this delay. NASA came up with the new date after doing an extensive review to see if the March 2021 timing was actually possible. The agency attributes about three months of the delay to social distancing and other precautions that had to be put in place to keep people safe from the coronavirus. “Much of the impact, of course, comes from people not being at work, right?” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, said during a press conference. “Not touching the hardware or from having a reduced number of people available to do shifts.”
Jan 28, 2020
NASA’s next big space observatory will likely miss its target launch date — again
NASA’s next big space observatory — the James Webb Space Telescope — probably won’t launch in March 2021, potentially creating added costs for the long-delayed and over-budget program. Unforeseen technical problems are prolonging the process of finishing up the telescope, making it increasingly likely that the spacecraft will have to launch at a later date.Read Article >
The grim news is detailed in the latest report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which performs audits of federally run programs. The GAO, which has been keeping a watchful eye on the telescope’s development for years, claims that there is only a 12 percent chance the agency will meet its March 2021 goal, thanks to a recent analysis done in October by those working on the program. NASA will figure out a new date in the spring of this year, according to the audit.
Aug 1, 2018
Why NASA is struggling to get its most powerful space telescope off the ground
For more than two decades, NASA has been developing what is being hailed as the most powerful space telescope ever created, a technological masterpiece that will live 1 million miles from Earth and unlock the mysteries of the distant Universe. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will have a 25-foot golden mirror that will be able to collect light from the first stars and galaxies that sprung to life just after the Big Bang. But the space agency just can’t seem to get the telescope off the ground.Read Article >
Since 2011, NASA had hoped to launch the JWST sometime this October. But in June, the space agency announced that the project would not launch until March 2021, and it will require millions of dollars more than NASA currently has budgeted.
Jun 27, 2018
NASA’s next flagship space telescope is delayed again
NASA has again delayed the launch of its next-generation space observatory, known as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the space agency announced today. The telescope now has a new launch date of March 30th, 2021. It’s the second delay to the program’s timeline this year, and the third in the last nine months.Read Article >
“We’re all disappointed that the culmination of Webb and its launch is taking longer than expected, but we’re creating something new here. We’re dealing with cutting-edge technology to perform an unprecedented mission, and I know that our teams are working hard and will successfully overcome the challenges,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a video statement. “In space we always have to look at the long term, and sometimes the complexities of our missions don’t come together as soon as we wish. But we learn, we move ahead, and ultimately we succeed.”
Dec 4, 2017
NASA’s next big space telescope is out of its cryogenic testing chamber
Last week, NASA’s next big powerful space observatory — the James Webb Space Telescope — was removed from the giant, cryogenic testing chamber it’s been living in since July at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The telescope just finished up around 100 days of testing inside the chamber, where it was subjected to super-cold temperatures to see if it was ready for the frigid conditions of space. Now, JWST will soon be moved to California for another round of testing, before the spacecraft’s scheduled launch in 2019.Read Article >
JWST will soon be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Meant to orbit a million miles from Earth, the telescope will allow scientists to peer into the deepest recesses of the Universe, helping us to learn more about the first galaxies that ever formed. And with a primary mirror more than six times larger than that of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, JWST will have extremely high resolution, capable of studying the atmospheres of planets outside our Solar System.
Sep 29, 2017
NASA delays launch of the world’s most powerful space telescope, again
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has experienced another delay. The telescope will now launch between March and June of 2019, instead of the previously planned launch of October 2018. The space agency made the announcement after a new scheduled assessment, noting that the delay was due to the component integration and testing taking longer than expected.Read Article >
The delay is at least partly due to the size and complexity of the Webb spacecraft and sunshield, the agency said. “The installation of more than 100 sunshield membrane release devices, factoring in lessons learned from earlier testing, like longer time spans for vibration testing, has meant the integration and testing process is just taking longer,” said Eric Smith, program director for the James Webb Space Telescope.