The James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope full-scale model and crew came to the South by Southwest (SXSW) event in Austin, Texas over the weekend of March 8-10th, 2013. I had a full weekend lined up with other astro activities and obligations, but due to the weather, Paul and I were able to attend the event for a few hours on Saturday. This was a pretty exciting opportunity to learn more about the James Webb telescope design and its mission first hand from astronomers and engineers who are involved with its creation. The Webb Telescope will reach further into the Universe than Hubble, using infrared technology.

The James Webb Space Telescope – NASA

The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST) is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope. The project is working to a 2018 launch date. Webb will find the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Webb will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System. Webb’s instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range.



  • Primary mirror: 6.5-meter diameter aperture
  • Wavelength: 0.6 to 28.5 microns
  • Diffraction limit: 2.0 microns
  • One-year sky coverage: 100%
  • Orbit: L2, 1,500,000 km from Earth
  • Mission lifetime: 5 years (10-year goal)
  • Telescope operating temp. : ~45 K (-380F)
  • Mass: ~6500 kg

We listened to presentations from Dr. James Bullock and Scott Willoughby. One of the highlights was a talk by Dr. John Mather, Nobel Laureate in physics.


Outside, several engineers and physicists were available for questions and answers. This lady explained about the importance of proper placement (Lagrange point L2) of the JWST beyond the Moon’s orbit for gravitational balance.  L2 is 940,000 miles from Earth, four times as far away from Earth as the Moon. The Sun is 93,000,000 miles from Earth.


We made our way back inside the NASA Experience Tent to have a closer look at the displays, learn more about the design material and infrared technology, and to grab a few souvenirs.


What a terrific opportunity NASA and SXSW gave the Austin community.

JWST set world record – Find out how the JWST set a world record on March 10th in Austin, Texas

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~ by Erika Rix on March 21, 2013.

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