Thanks to images from a robotic Earth telescope, you can now watch NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope travel through the final frontier.
The James Webb Space Telescope, a collaborative effort decades in the making involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, launched in the early hours of Dec. 25. Four days later, on Dec. 29, astrophysicist Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project spotted Webb traveling through space using a robotic telescope.
Masi combined some of his imagery into a short movie of Webb in action that you can watch above. You can spot Webb in the image and video as a small white dot with the help of a tiny arrow. (You can additionally follow along with the mission’s milestones at a NASA website here.)
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Masi’s video shows Webb in space, on its way to its final destination, a gravitationally stable point in space called L2, or the Earth-sun Lagrange point 2, about 1 million miles (1.5 million km) from Earth.
At the time, the observatory was about 340,000 miles (550,000 kilometers) from Earth, Masi wrote. That’s about 100,000 miles (160,000 km) beyond the moon’s orbit.
To snap the “movie” of Webb, the robotic telescope tracked Webb’s motion across the sky. Masi collected this imagery of Webb using a single 120-second exposure with the PlaneWave 17″+Paramount ME+SEBIG STL-6303E robotic telescope, nicknamed “Elena,” that is available at the Virtual Telescope Project in Ceccano, Italy.
At the same time that Masi was collecting these observations, Webb extended its deployable tower assembly (DTA), a step that gave the telescope the space to begin deploying its massive sunshield, according to the Virtual Telescope Project.
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