Canada Plays Major Role in James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope after separation from its Ariane 5 booster. (Credit; NASA)

LONGUEUIL, Que., December 25, 2021 – Today, the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) was successfully launched at 7:20 a.m. ET from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The telescope, which promises to change our understanding of the universe, is an international collaboration between the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), NASA, and the European Space Agency. Through strategic investments in space research and development and our world-class expertise in astronomy, science and engineering, Canada’s  contribution opens tremendous science opportunities for Canadian astronomers, who will be among the first to have access to the data collected by Webb, and to study it.

The Canadian astronomy community’s interests lie in the study of exoplanets, the search for the first light sources in the universe, the formation and evolution of galaxies, the lifecycle of stars, and small bodies in our own solar system — all study areas that will be accessible with the successful launch of the telescope.

Quotes

“Once again, Canada’s space sector is pushing the frontier of science and, more so, of astronomy. Webb is the largest space science project in the 60-year history of Canada’s space program. Thanks to substantial past investments in space technologies, Canada was able to be an active partner in this exciting mission with the U.S. and Europe.”

– The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Quick facts

  • Canada’s contribution to Webb consists of two important elements, built by Honeywell with the help of scientists and engineers from the CSA, the Université de Montréal, NASA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute:
    • The Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) will guide the telescope with incredible precision during all of the telescope’s observations, with an accuracy of one millionth of a degree; and 
    • The Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), one of the telescope’s four science instruments, will enable scientists to observe distant galaxies and study exoplanets’ atmospheres to determine their potential for supporting life. 
  • The Canadian Webb science team is led by Principal Investigator Dr. René Doyon of the Université de Montréal; and Project Scientist Dr. Chris Willott from National Research Council Canada’s Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre. Researchers from a number of other universities and institutes are also involved.
  • From 1998 to March 2021, the CSA invested approximately $177.8 million into the design and build of the FGS and NIRISS, and an additional $16.5 million in science support for Canada’s contribution.
  • The telescope will orbit the Sun around a position called Lagrange 2, located 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. It will take Webb about a month to travel to its final destination in space.

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