Astronomers around the globe have captured NASA’s $10 million James Webb Space Telescope soaring through space. 

The telescope that was launched from Guiana Space Centre Christmas Day is now seen only as a tiny speck among the stars. 

One clip was captured by Gianluca Masi, manager of the Virtual Telescope Project, provided by the Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory in Italy. 

It’s based on a single 120-second exposure on December 29, collected with a robotic unit called ‘Elena’ that’s remotely accessible in real-time over the internet. 

When the footage was captured, the telescope was around 340,000 miles (550,000 km) away from Earth, or about 1.5 times further away than the Moon. 

James Webb Space Telescope, (JWST), is approximately 40% away from the second Lagrangian points (L2) where it will spend at least a decade studying the universe through infrared. 

NASA's $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope is seen as a mere speck in the sky among the stars in this capture by the Virtual Telescope Project

NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope is seen as a mere speck in the sky among the stars in this capture by the Virtual Telescope Project

Another astronomer, Ruari Mackenzie at ETH Zürich, took footage of JWST on Boxing Day from the far north of Scotland. 

The footage, posted to Twitter, shows ‘two slowly moving dots’ – JWST itself and the upper stage of the Ariane 5 launch rocket.

Both can be seen moving past Eridanus, a constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere, according to Mackenzie. 

An artist's impression of the James Webb Space Telescope folded in the Ariane 5 rocket after launch from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana

Artist’s impression showing the James Webb Space Telescope, folded inside the Ariane 5 rocket following launch from Europe’s Spaceport.


Jame Webb Space Telescope is set to spend its remaining life at the Lagrangian point, which lies between Earth and Sun.

The point at which the gravitational force of both bodies is balanced.

JWST is located just below a million kilometers from Earth’s surface. It will accomplish a variety of tasks on its journey.

  • 3-9 days:The delicate sunshield will help keep the body cool 
  • 10-11 Days: The secondary mirror 
  • 12-14 Days: Install the primary mirror
  • Between 15 and 26 daysTake the mirror apart and inspect it. 
  • 29 days: Insertion in the L2 Point 
  • 6 MonthsFirst Images after Months of Calibration 

Meanwhile, Gideon van Buitenen, an astronomer based in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, shared an accelerated recording of JWST on Twitter. 

The footage was captured between 23:18 UTC and 23:26 UTC on December 25, less than 11 hours following JWST’s launch at 12:00 UTC. 

JWST was launched on November 28th. It began unfolding the massive sunshield three days later. NASA released this information on December 28. 

Over five days the sunshield will be gradually deployed. Once fully opened, it will measure approximately as large as a tennis court. It will provide protection for Webb’s optics. 

JWST has been developed at a cost of $8.8 billion (£6.6 billion), with operational expenses projected to bring its total price tag to about $9.66 billion (£7.2 billion), according to Reuters.

It is expected to have a power of about 100 times that its predecessor, Hubble Space Telescope.

JWST is an international collaboration between NASA and the Canadian and European space agencies. It was launched in 1996.

The launch delay of months had caused it to be delayed for several months. This was after years of construction delays. Its first scheduled launch date is set for 2007. 

After being rescheduled last Christmas Eve, it was finally moved to December 25, where the launch window would be between 07.20 ET (12.20 GMT), and 07.52 ET (12.52 GMT). 

NASA 's revolutionary James Webb Space Telescope has successfully lifted off to start its long flight into space to replace the Hubble telescope after decades of planning and delays

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a revolutionary NASA instrument has lifted off successfully to begin its long journey into space. It will replace the Hubble telescope. This is after years of delays and planning.

Webb is expected to make unexpected discoveries and aid humanity in understanding the origins of our universe. 

The goal is to go back over 13.5 billion year to find the first galaxies and stars that were formed after the Big Bang.  

Webb will primarily look at the universe from the infrared while Hubble examines it primarily at ultraviolet and optical wavelengths since 1990, when Hubble was launched.

Webb is able to look further back in time and has a larger light collection area than Hubble.  

Already years late in leaving the Earth for space, Webb will look back to almost the beginning of time, to when the first stars and galaxies were forming

Webb is already years late when he left Earth for space. He will go back almost to the beginning, the time that the first galaxies and stars formed.

NASA would rather think of James Webb a successor than Hubble, since the two will be working together for quite some time. 

Named after James E. Webb (American government official, who served as NASA administrator from 1961 through 1968) and was an integral part of the Apollo program. 

NASA’s decision to name the device after him was a controversial one – he has been accused of homophobia since his passing in 1992 due to his role in the 1963 firing of a gay NASA employee.  


In October, NASA announced that it will not rename the James Webb Telescope ahead of its launch in December, despite a petition against honoring a space pioneer who some have now claimed was homophobic.

Webb died at 85 in 1992. He was second NASA administrator. In 1961, John F. Kennedy asked Webb to take over.

The agency he ran until 1968 was his responsibility. He also played a key role in Apollo programs which would lead to Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon the year following his death.

The agency had announced in 2002 that the $10 billion new telescope it was building would be named for him. Its launch is scheduled for December 2021.

Yet in recent years the decision has stirred criticism, and a petition this year to rename it has received 1,200 signatures.

Organizers accuse Webb of  being homophobic, due to his role in the 1963 firing of a gay NASA employee. 

He was also asked questions about the 1950-52 “Lavender Scare” during which 91 gay men were ‘purged.

However, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated on September 30 that the agency had decided to not rename it.

NPR’s He said that there was no evidence to change the name of James Webb Space Telescope.