The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space-based, near- to mid-infrared observatory that follows a novel engineering design: Unlike its infrared predecessors such as the Spitzer Space Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory, and many other observatories of similar designs, JWST employs the use of a segmented primary mirror and a Sunshield the size of a tennis court. The 6.5-meter diameter primary mirror renders a light gathering power that is about 6.25 times greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), and, coupled with the fact that it reflects infrared light, enables us to see as far back as about 250 million years following the Big Bang. Orbiting around the second Lagrange Point (L2), roughly 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, JWST enjoys a space environment that imposes fewer constraints on activities than low-Earth orbit does. For instance, there is no South Atlantic Anomaly bombarding spacecraft electronics with high-energy protons, or terminator transitions causing changes in the electrical and thermal environments. All these features enable JWST to address fundamental questions in astronomy surrounding multiple topics, ranging from the evolution of protoplanetary systems, stars, and galaxies, beginning with the very first of their kind, to extrasolar planetary atmospheres and the origins of life.
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