NASA is counting down towards a Christmas Eve launch for its biggest space telescope ever and you can watch it all live online.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to NASA and Europe’s iconic Hubble Space Telescope. The next-generation capabilities of the upcoming observatory, paired with the laundry list of mission delays over the last several years, makes this a highly-anticipated event across the astronomical community. You can watch the entire mission on our live updates page here.
NASA will hold a press conference today, Tuesday Dec. 21, to give an update on launch preparations for Webb and its Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket. That prelaunch briefing will begin at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT) and should last at least an hour.
The Webb space telescope is currently scheduled to launch no earlier than 7:20 a.m. on Friday (Dec. 24) from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. On that day, you’ll be able to watch one of several English-language virtual launch events on NASA Live, as well as Space.com, where we will also be streaming the telescope’s flight courtesy of NASA TV. NASA will also broadcast the launch on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and Daily Motion.
Live updates: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launch
NASA’s launch coverage for the Webb space telescope begins at 3 a.m. EST (0800 GMT) on Friday with an Ariane 5 rocket fueling update.
Launch coverage begins in earnest at 6 a.m. EST (1100 GMT) and will include live views from Webb’s Ariane 5 launch site in French Guiana, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which is home to the space telescope’s mission operations center.
Alongside its English broadcast, NASA is hosting a Spanish-language Webb launch virtual event beginning at 6:30 a.m. EST (1130 GMT) on the space agency’s website. Viewers can also watch via the social media accounts for NASA en Español like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. This broadcast will be hosted by Begoña Vila, Webb instrument systems engineer, and will feature live commentary from Spanish-speaking members of the telescope mission.
NASA will also air a clean feed without commentary from 7:00 a.m. until an hour after launch, according to a NASA statement describing the launch livestreams. There will be audio channels for launch commentary available, however, and will be provided in English, Spanish and French.
NASA also maintains a Webb space telescope blog where launch updates will be regularly posted.
Like Hubble, Webb is capable of taking incredible observations of the solar system and beyond. However its new observational responsibilities will mean that it will operate quite differently. Unlike the 31-year old Hubble mission, Webb will not fly through space in a place that is accessible for servicing. Space shuttle astronauts were able to service Hubble because it orbits about 350 miles (810 km) above the surface of the Earth. Webb, however, will be roughly 1,000,000 miles (1,609,344 km) from our planet.
This vantage point will facilitate the operation of its scientific instruments, which in turn will help researchers learn about the many chapters of the universe’s story. It is designed to observe the light from the early universe, revealing how the earliest stars and galaxies formed. It will also boost astronomers’ understanding of objects closer to Earth, like exoplanets and objects within our solar system.
Webb is born of an international collaboration that NASA is performing with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
Follow Doris Elin Urrutia on Twitter @salazar_elin. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.