The James Webb Space Telescope continues the complex process of unfolding its origami-like structure into its final deployed form while traveling through space en route to its ultimate orbit around the sun. Much of this process, in which the telescope tends its sun visor, will take place tomorrow and NASA will be broadcasting live coverage of the event. We’ve got the details on what to expect from this and how to watch it from home.
What to expect from the sunshade deployment
The process of moving the telescope from its launch configuration, folded inside a rocket, to its full deployment, ready to start science operations, is complex. One of the most crucial and delicate parts of this operation is the unfolding of the tennis court-sized five-layer sunshade that will shield the telescope from the heat of the sun.
Over the past week, parts of the sunshade support structure were put in place, resulting in the extension of the two middle arrows which stretched the sunshade to its full width of 47 feet.
Now the sun visor should be stretched. Each of the five layers will be separated and stretched into its final shape, kept stretched with a space between each layer to allow heat to escape. It starts with the largest layer, which is closest to the sun, and works using a total of 90 cables that are attached to various pulleys to put the shield in place.
Full deployment is expected to take at least two days.
How to watch the sun visor unfold
Sunshade deployment coverage will begin Sunday, January 2 at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT). NASA TV will be broadcasting live coverage of the power-up process, and once that is complete, there will be a briefing with more information on James Webb and the deployment process.
To watch the show, you can either head to the NASA website or use the built-in video player at the top of this page.
In addition to the sunshade deployment coverage, there will also be greater coverage of additional deployment processes next week. On Tuesday, January 4, there will be live coverage of the deployment of the James Webb Secondary Mirror Support Structure, and on Friday, January 7, there will be live coverage of the deployment of the second of the primary mirror wings. The exact time of these broadcasts has not yet been confirmed, but you can keep an eye out for James Webb Space Telescope Blog for more information as it becomes available.
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