Numerous astronomers eagerly await the launch of the first space telescope, which could determine the future of their career.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is NASA’s successor for Hubble. However, it can see more than Hubble.  

Launching a piece of $10 billion-worth of equipment brings with it thousands upon thousands of proposals for research, observation time, and scientists hoping to unravel the secrets of our universe and answer any questions.

Some believe that a Christmas miracle will be necessary to launch the aircraft, but there are many delays and weather issues, which could lead to delay upon delay. 

MailOnline interviewed a variety of astronomers who have staked their career on this new generation of space telescope. One observational astronomer from St Andrews, Alex Scholz said Webb was ‘the only one in town’ 

JWST launches from French Guiana Spaceport, European Space Agency on Friday 25 December at 12:20 GMT aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. 

Thousands of astronomers are sitting anxiously waiting for the launch of a space telescope that could dictate the next decade of their careers

Many astronomers wait anxiously for the launch space telescopes that will determine their next ten years of careers. 

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is NASA's successor to Hubble, but it goes much further than the iconic observatory, able to view more than Hubble could

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, (JWST), is NASA’s successor to Hubble. But it does more than that iconic observatory. It can view much more than Hubble. 

Instruments for the James Webb Space Telescope 

NIRCamNear InfraRed Cam (Near InfraRed Imager) An infrared camera that captures images at the edges of visible light and near infrared.  

NIRSpec(Near InfraRed Spectrograph), will also do spectroscopy within the same wavelength range. 

MIRIThe Mid-InfraRed Indicator will measure mid-to long-infrared wavelengths from 5 to 27 millimeters.

FGS/NIRISSIt is used during science observation to stabilise the line-of sight of the observatory (Fine Guidance sensor, Near Infrared imager and Slitless Scotrograph).  

Scientists hope Webb will provide them with a deep understanding of the Big Bang.

But it isn’t without risk, as NASA says there are  344 single-point-of-failure items on the new telescope, and thats before it begins operations a million miles from Earth.  

Mark McCaughrean is an ESA Webb Interdisciplinarian Scientist who has waited more than twenty years to get data from Webb.

He claimed he didn’t feel nervous about the rocket’s launch because it was tested, prepared and simulate-tested to the last inch, and had confidence in engineers.

He stated that launch is always a concern because of the fact that you’ve placed a costly piece on an explosion with barely guided guidance. However, it’s what we do, so the Ariane 5 was a great workhorse. 

Even if all goes well, the scary part for many astronomers is weeks later, when it reaches its solar orbit one million miles distant.

The golden mirrors will be unfurled when the satellite is orbited. That will give it greater access to the dark and early universe. However, this process comes with risks.

When a $10 billion piece of equipment launches, it brings with it thousands of research proposals, observation time and researchers hoping to uncover the secrets of our universe, and answer questions about how everything came about

A $10 billion piece or equipment is launched with thousands of observation times, research proposals and other resources. These researchers hope to discover the secrets of the universe and provide answers about why it all happened. 

Some say a 'Christmas miracle' will be needed it to get off the ground, with delay after delay, including a weather related issue pushing launch to Christmas Day

Many believe a “Christmas miracle” will be required to make it happen. There are delays after delays, and even a weather-related issue that could delay launch until Christmas Day. 


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 was 85 years old when he died in 1992. Webb took over from John F. Kennedy’s request in 1961.

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.

In 2002, the agency declared that it would name its new $10 billion telescope after him. The launch was 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 rejected renaming of the telescope.

NPR was informed that ‘we have not found any evidence to warrant changing the name the James Webb Space Telescope’.  

‘Webb is such a complex observatory and we won’t know whether it can meet its full potential until about six months after launch,’ Dr Emma Curtis-Lake, STFC Webb Fellow from the University of Hertfordshire, told MailOnline.

‘I know I’ll be impulsively checking the NASA updates for the first month after launch as it un-folds,’ she said, adding ‘that is the part of Webb’s journey I’m most anxious about with so many things that can go wrong.’

Webb will be launched once the planet is in orbit. It will then spend the next month traveling to the final Lagrange point L2 (the point where Earth and sun are equal in gravity), before it returns home.

It will begin to unfold once it reaches L2. The sunshield is a diamond-shaped, five-layer structure that measures the same size as a tennis court.

Mirror measures 6.5 metres in width and is composed of 18 gold-coated, hexagonal segments.

McCaughrean stated that the earlier stages of the launch were just engineering. The scary stage is the sunshield. It is experimental and largely classical.

“The sunshield, which is made up of a lot of thin film and can be floppy and difficult to release one time in case it gets tangled and fly around,” he stated.

It deploys slowly, using pins that are pulled out to release the next section. However, it’s not rigid and it’s possible for it to get caught up and cause it to stop working properly. The device has been successfully tested, deployed and many improvements made during testing.

“The problem is that it cannot be tested completely under zero g, or at the temperatures it will experience. While there are some things we can simulate for it, we don’t know how it’ll perform until it reaches its orbit. 

Many reasons exist for the excitement that astronomers feel about Webb’s potential to make observations, including its broad range of capabilities. 

MailOnline’s Alex Sholz said that Webb is a tool to discover free-floating stars – such as Jupiter – which have not orbit the star. 

The JWST is scheduled to launch from the European Space Agency spaceport in French Guiana on Friday, December 25 at 12:20 GMT atop an Ariane 5 rocket

JWST launches from French Guiana Spaceport, European Space Agency on Friday 25 December at 12:20 GMT from atop an Ariane 5 rocket 

MailOnline spoke to a number of astronomers that have pinned their careers on the success of this next generation space telescope, with one observational astronomer, Alex Scholz, from St Andrews saying Webb 'is the only game in town'

MailOnline talked to several astronomers about how their careers have been influenced by the next-generation space telescope. Alex Scholz from St Andrews was one of these astronomers. 


June 16, 2020: March 2021 to Oct 31 2021

September 8, 2021The deadline is October 31, 2021 through December 18, 2020

November 22, 2021Between December 18 and December 22 

December 14, 2021Between December 22 and December 24,  

December 21st, 2021The deadline is December 24, through December 25,

“Doing so will allow us to discover more about planet and star formation. There is currently no telescope capable of doing this.

“The mass of Jupiter is 5x the size of Jupiter’s, according to existing telescopes. However, we are interested in exploring the populations of lower-mass objects. 

JWST has to be the only option. If it does not succeed, we will need to continue working on other problems. 

Emma Curtis-Lake, from the Centre for Astrophysics Research at the University of Hertfordshire is one of two dedicated Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Webb Fellows, who will use Webb data and observations. 

Her current research is focused on star formation in galaxies within the Early Universe. It’s an area that challenges the boundaries of the available observatories.

“The Webb telescope is able to see back further than Hubble and it can even see the light of galaxies more clearly by pushing farther into infrared,” she stated.

'Astronomers worldwide will then be able to conduct scientific observations to broaden our understanding of the universe,' NASA says

NASA declares that “astronomers from all over the globe will now be able conduct scientific observations in order to increase our understanding about the universe.” 

From a search for free floating exoplanets, to a look at the first stars to form after the Big Bang, scientists hope Webb will give them a deeper insight than ever before

Scientists hope Webb will provide them with a deep understanding of the Big Bang. This includes a search for exoplanets that are free to orbit, and a view at the stars formed after it. 


Ariane 5 the European heavy-lift, space launch vehicle. Arianespace developed it and operates it for the European Space Agency. It is launched from French Guiana. 

The satellites are sent into low earth orbit and geostationary orbits. Since its launch in 2003, there has been an impressive 82-year streak of success. 

It was built by Aribus and costs up to €185 million (£159 million) per launch to get a payload into space. 

It can lift up to 171ft across the two stages, and can support a maximum load of 23,953lb.

Ariane 5 will launch the James Webb space telescope from the L2 point. 

Astronomers can see more light from distant galaxies, which allows them to reveal more about the universe. 

Webb will enable us to separate the light using spectra,” said Dr Curtiss-Lake. He also stated that this would allow us to look for fingerprints of various elements such as Carbon, Nitrogen, and Oxygen which are essential elements to our lives.

This allows them to tell a story about the cosmic origins and evolution of essential elements.

The Webb telescope has been used by her team for 800 hours. This will last approximately five years. It also includes revisiting Hubble’s fields, which were stared at for hundreds upon hours. 

This will include repeating the famous Hubble Ultra-Deep Field, that among other things, told astronomers  that star-forming galaxies were far more common in the clusters of the younger Universe than in modern clusters of galaxies near us today.

MailOnline was informed that a spectrograph called NIRSpec (which is incredibly sensitive and can take spectra from hundreds of galaxies simultaneously) will be used to collect spectra. She also stated that Hubble will not miss any galaxies.

Webb will be used by the researchers to search for supermassive dark holes within early galaxies and buildup of life-giving elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.

But it isn't without risk, as NASA says there are 344 single-point-of-failure items on the new telescope, and thats before it begins operations a million miles from Earth

But it isn’t without risk, as NASA says there are 344 single-point-of-failure items on the new telescope, and thats before it begins operations a million miles from Earth 

Emma Curtis-Lake, from the Centre for Astrophysics Research at the University of Hertfordshire is one of two dedicated Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Webb Fellows, who will use Webb data and observations

Emma Curtis-Lake from the Centre for Astrophysics Research at University of Hertfordshire, is one of two STFC Webb Fellows. They will make use of Webb data and observations 

NASA unveils more than 300 possible FAIs for its $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope 

It’s the most powerful and expensive NASA space telescope ever built. This will allow us to see further into the cosmos then our iconic predecessor Hubble.

But the $10 billion (£7.2bn) James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is also by far the US space agency’s most complicated, meaning there will still be scores of potential pitfalls even when it is finally launched. 

NASA has estimated there are 344 ways the six-tonne observatory could fail when it takes up its orbit 930,000 miles from Earth.

The JWST will begin “the most complicated sequence of deployments ever attempted in one space mission” approximately 28 minutes after launch, according to the US space agency. 

The satellite will need to be released from the launch rocket into orbit. It is similar to an origami process in reverse.

This choreographed move of all types of pulleys, levers and hinges will be performed over approximately 14 years.

‘There are 344 single-point-of-failure items on average,’ according to Mike Menzel, Webb lead mission systems engineer for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, who said that ‘approximately 80 per cent of those are associated with the deployment’.

He stated, “When my business began about 40 years back, one of the most important lessons that I was taught was not to deploy astronauts.”

James Webb is not able to avoid deployments. James Webb must perform complex deployments, which are not easy.

Curtis Lake said that elements such as these aren’t present after the Big Bang.

McCaughrean was involved in the data side of the telescope preparations form the late 1990s, and says it will provide an insight into the universe like no telescope before it.

When we first spoke, he was on a last-minute flight to French Guiana for the launch.

MailOnline: He said that although he had originally intended to fly to the US to launch this campaign, it turned out that he was not going. Instead, he is going to French Guiana.

Webb’s core science team, Science Working Group is made up of an astronomer and has been doing so since 1998. His scientific background includes studying the origins and evolution of planets and stars in the Milky Way.

His comments included that exoplanets have been the focus of much of the attention since it was created, although they were discovered only in the late 1990s. However, it is crucial for anyone looking at today’s birth of stars in our Milky Way.

The reason stars appear cooler is because they are made of material that’s more dense than anything else. The stars can be described as being in construction zones. 

The young stars can be seen in visible wavelengths (as seen by Hubble as well as the human eye) but you will see them in the infrared. They emit more light and are therefore cooler in the infrared.

JWST reduces the number of objects that can be seen, according to him. This is primarily because the telescope’s temperature drops to -230 Celsius. It doesn’t emit any infrared light, which means that astronomers do not have to “fight” against the infrared emitted by Earth.

Webb can take photos ten times sharper and hundreds times more detailed than Hubble’s, but he will also be able to do so with a digital camera. 

McCaughrean explained to MailOnline how Webb was so important to astronomy that the 2001 proposals he made for Webb were relevant because they have yet to be examined by any other telescope.

His research will focus on a young, dense star-forming region called “The Orion Nebula”, which is the “faint fuzzy bob below Orion” belt.

He stated, “In that nursery there were thousands of young stars packed in a space equal in volume as the distance between Sun and Alpha Century,”

Primarily an infrared telescope, Webb will have a wider spectrum view than Hubble and operate further out from the Earth, in a solar orbit

Webb, primarily an infrared telescope will provide a broad spectrum view of the Earth than Hubble. Webb also operates further from Earth in a solar orbit.


STFC Webb Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire, Emma Curtis-Lake

For me, personally, I’m most excited about searching for the galaxies that Hubble could have missed. 

I hope Webb will reveal a diverse population of galaxies that we can’t know about yet, because Hubble couldn’t see them. 

I hope we’re going to see things that are completely unexpected, and allow us to ask questions we didn’t even know to ask. 

Alex Scholz, St Andrews 

Webb will allow me to locate free-floating, non-orbiting planets. Jupiter and other objects such as it are not in orbit around the star. Instead they have left their planetary structure early in their evolution. 

This will allow us to gain more information about planet and star formation.

This telescope is the only one that’s available right now. 

A number of telescopes exist that measure Jupiter’s mass at 5x the current level. 

Jan Cami of the Space Telescope Research Institute

It is an amazing game-changer. The machine can reveal the entire cosmic origin.

This first generation of stars is going to be different than any other. It will be possible to observe how stars are formed, the evolution of planets and how they form.

You can even see planets formed in action. We’ll also be able to learn more about the chemical components involved in their formation and how they relate to our origins.

Mark McCaughrean ESA Webb Interdisciplinary Scientist

Although exoplanets have been the focus of the telescope since it was created, they are vitally important to anyone looking at today’s Milky Way stars.

This is because stars that are created are much cooler than anything else. They are also surrounded with the material from which they were made. The stars can be described as being in construction zones. 

You can’t see young stars in visible wavelengths, which can be seen with the naked eye or by Hubble. But infrared can show them.

They emit less light than the infrared because they are cooler.

McCaughrean stated that Webb is important because of its broad capabilities. With a particular focus on astronomy, McCaughrean believes Webb has many strengths.

JWST was created as a general purpose observatory. There are also ideas and discoveries from just a few years back.

The space-based telescopes can perform ‘lots’ of tasks, according to the inventor.

Jan Cami and Els Peeters, both from Space Telescope Research Institute are currently working together on a Webb-linked project entitled: Radiative Feedback from Massive Stars As Traced By Multiband Imaging, Spectroscopic Mozaics.

To get an understanding of the formation process, they will examine material around young stars using the Webb telescope.

MailOnline spoke with Els Peeters, who said that she would study the effects of radiation on young stars.

It’s like going camping during winter, and lighting a fire. While the snow melts around the fire, there’s still more snow farther out.

“The same happens to young stars. They are embedded in cloud where they were formed and radiation alters the properties of cloud.

Webb will make observations using his infrared camera, sensors and microphone to determine how the processes in the Orion Nebula actually function. 

Jan Cami described it like a comic-book. Hubble can show us all the frames of the whole book in one place. This gives you a sense that this might be a spiderman adventure. But, it’s not what happens.

“What we can say with Webb is that this image belongs to this part, but that it is farther away from the star and what the physical story for that region is.

Webb was described by them as being capable of showing many different properties simultaneously in a given region, with the limited field of view as an important factor.

Dr. Peeters stated that for our particular research we were looking at carbon molecules in the space. Webb’s wavelength is ideal, which allows us to simultaneously track everything. 

Webb could be hurt during launch, or the chaotic unfolding of its mirror. Many astronomers believe that there is no Plan B.

Curtis Lake said that while there are several space missions, Euclid, and Nancy Grace Roman, which will improve our understanding of early Universe, nothing is quite like Webb. 

Webb’s purpose is to see into deep space and pick up tiny objects. 

‘Both Euclid and Nancy Grace won’t be able to probe as far back in time as Webb, and lack the spectroscopic capabilities, which means that tracing the cosmic origins of elements will be many years off. 

The telescope is named after the late James E. Webb, an American government official who was the administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968 and played an integral role in the Apollo program

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.

Webb will be exploring a system of planets located 63 light-years away from Earth, which is very similar to our solar system 

JWST will launch with 30 percent of its initial observational run focusing on exoplanets. One of these is only 63 light-years from Earth. 

NASA claims it will examine Beta Pictoris. This ‘young system of planets’ has at most two planets. There are also a few smaller, rocky bodies and a disc.

This study aims to understand more about the dust and discover what is going on inside the system.

This debris disc is likely to include comets and asteroids, rock of different sizes, dust, and all other shapes orbiting the star.

“They will however cover much greater areas of the sky than Webb, which allows us to search exotic and rare objects Webb might miss.”

James Webb Space Telescope is expected to share its first images of night sky with researchers by June 2022.

ESA, NASA, and other organizations called for “open science” projects. These would have priority for telescopes, with NASA receiving first-run priority in exchange for rapid results and open data access.

‘What we have in the first year is three levels of observation – guaranteed time observers who have had time for 20 years,  then people who applied 18 months ago, competitively selected, and then you have early release science.

‘These are people who applied to get data within the first six months, and all of their data will be made public immediately,’ said Dr McCaughrean.

This will allow you to compare the different instrument’s capabilities in different ways. However, it will also help with real science and making new discoveries.

Webb is not likely to be used in the discovery of life on another planet. However, he said he would be able point out exoplanets which have habitable atmospheres.

He said that the first science might be published in 2022’s Autumn, but it is impossible to predict what they will be and how long their observations will take.

Webb will travel to an orbit about one million miles away from Earth and undergo six months of commissioning in space ¿ including unfolding its mirrors and sunshield, cooling down, aligning and calibrating

Webb will travel to an orbit about one million miles away from Earth and undergo six months of commissioning in space – including unfolding its mirrors and sunshield, cooling down, aligning and calibrating 

Cami stated that science in the future will be at most broad and diverse. He said about Dr Cami’s telescope: “I am excited because of a lot different reasons.”

This is a gamechanger. The machine will reveal the entire cosmic origin.

“The first generation of stars we see will be quite different from any others. It will be possible to observe how stars are formed, the evolution of planets and how they form.

“We’ll even be able to catch the planets being formed in action, learning more about chemical components involved in their formation and linking them with our origins of existence.”

No matter what Christmas miracle it may be, James Webb will launch and deploy as planned, and we’ll have a decade full of new astronomy that gives us an unparalleled view of the universe. 


It is primarily an infrared telescope and will offer a greater range of views than Hubble. Additionally, the solar orbit it uses, instead of an Earth orbit, will allow for a more distant view. 

Research by Ohio State University claims that within five years of it coming online, James Webb will have found signs of alien life on a distant world.

Caprice Phillips, a graduate student, calculated that the system could detect ammonia from living organisms around dwarf planets with just a few orbits. 

James Webb’s telescope is described as “a time machine”, which could be used to unravel the secrets behind our universe.

This telescope can be used for looking back at the very first galaxies that were born more than 13.5billion years ago in the early universe.

It can also monitor the stars, exoplanets, moons, planets, and other sources in the solar system.

The operating temperature for most instruments, including the James Webb Telescope’s, is approximately 40 Kelvin.

It is approximately minus 387 Fahrenheit or minus 233 Celsius. 

Officials from the space agencies responsible for the telescope say the cost may exceed the $8 billion (£5.6 billion) program cap set by Congress.

NASA has already poured $7 billion (£5 billion) into the telescope since it was first proposed as a replacement for the long-running Hubble space telescope.

It will launch in 2021 and be the largest telescope on the planet, capable of looking back to 200 million years from the Big Bang.

James Webb’s lifespan is five years. NASA however hopes that it will last a decade, although it cannot be fixed due to its faraway location from Earth.

It measures 66’x 46ft in size and operates at 930,000 miles (roughly four times farther than the Moon) from the Sun-Earth Lagrange Point. 

At the end of October 2020, the telescope will be launched on an Ariane-5 European-built rocket. First observations are expected in 2022.