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James Webb Space Telescope set to launch on Christmas Day

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - On Christmas Day a new NASA telescope is set to launch.  This will be the largest telescope ever launched to this part of space.  News 18 spoke with a Purdue astrophysicist who had a large part in the project.

Danny Milisavljevic is an professor at Purdue but when he's not teaching, he acts as an astrophysicist, contributing valuable insight to NASA. One of his most recent projects is the James Webb Space telescope. The telescope is set to be launched on Christmas Day of 2021.

"Oh my gosh the relief the excitement the satisfaction of finally seeing it in orbit and going where it needs to will be, I'll say, indescribable," remarked Milisavljevic.

This project is years in the making.  It was first discussed in the 1980's, and construction began in 2002. Thousands of scientists from over twelve countries contributed to this project.  Milisavljevic said it is the largest, most sophisticated telescope ever sent to space.

"Light bounces off these mirrors which are actually coated in gold, and then it reflects back onto the secondary which also is coated in gold. And then it goes back into the rear of the telescope through this back link to the instrumentation where the final image for spectrum is recorded," he explained.

For some perspective, the Hubble telescope was 2.4 meters long, while this new James Webb telescope is 6.5 meters long and therefore, will have to fold up origami style to be launched into space.

The telescope will arrive at what Milisavljevic described as "Lagrange 2 Point". This is intentional as it is the perfect spot that will keep the telescope gravitationally pulled in alignment with the sun and the Earth but will also minimize the amount of light hitting the points where the telescope will be taking its pictures. This perfect formula along with its large size will optimize the clearest of photos of these exploding stars.

There will be a virtual launch part at 6:30 am on Christmas Day via Zoom hosted by Milisavljevic with pannelists.

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