The day is finally upon us! JWST, the successor of Hubble and soon to be largest and most powerful space telescope, is about to launch. It will happen as soon as possible after the launch window opens at 7:20 EST/12:20 GMT on Christmas Day (December 25) on an ESA-provided Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, in South America.
The launch will be live-streamed on all new NASA channels and can be watched below:
Here is a timeline of the exciting (or absolutely nerve-wracking if you’re an astronomer) moments that will happen after lift-off:
After 3.5 minutes, the fairing that protects the telescope will open. The telescope will be exposed to the vacuum of space for the first time. Shortly after there should also be the first communication from the telescope to confirm that everything is a-OK
The next crucial step is 28 minutes in, when JWST will separate from the launch vehicle. A few minutes later, the solar arrays will extend, and the telescope system will begin to power up. There are many more steps that the observatory will have to take before it is fully operational.
JWST will have to travel beyond the orbit of the Moon and unfold its heat shield and detectors. That will take about a month, and several more will be needed to make sure that it is all ok. But once its science mission starts, it will not have any rivals and will provide incredible new insights into the Universe.
The telescope is a partnership between the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, and NASA. It is named after the controversial former NASA administrator James Webb.