Giant Honeycomb Will Peer Back Deeper Into Space Than Ever Before

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James Webb Telescope

Photo: NASA Webb Telescope/Maggie Masetti

The James Webb telescope will launch in 2018 as the successor to the long-running Hubble Telescope, which has been taking pictures of the early universe for 22 years.  The giant space telescope will travel one million miles from Earth, and will hopefully be able to see the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, more than 13 billion years ago. 

The James Webb isn’t a replacement to the Hubble, although it will be able to look farther back in time using infrared — the spectrum in which light from more distant objects can be seen.  

An awesome full-scale model of the space telescope was on display at South by Southwest this weekend, an annual conference in Austin, TX.  

Although the real James Webb is being built and its parts tested at NASA's Goddard Space Flight centre in Maryland, the full-scale model was constructed in Austin, Texas for South by Southwest.

Here are some of the nuts and bolts required to build the JWST model.

The model was put together piece-by-piece by a San Antonio rigging company.

It took about two days to construct.

JWST will have a primary mirror, made up of 18 hexagon segments. The whole thing is 22 feet in diameter, which is about 2.7 times larger than the diameter of Hubble.

Each of the hexagonal mirror segments measures 4.3 feet and diameter and weighs 46 pounds.

The replica weights 12,000 pounds and is made mostly out of aluminium and steel. The gold-coloured hexagons on the real telescope that will be sent to space will be gold-plated mirrors.

Webb has a much bigger mirror than Hubble, meaning it can collect more light and peer farther back into time than its predecessor.

Here's the whole model lit up at night. It looks beautiful.

A crew of volunteers who worked on the telescope stand in front of the model. It gives you an idea of just how big the structure is.

Even Bobak Ferdowsi, aka NASA Mohawk Guy, paid the model a visit.

Here's an image of components for the real telescope being tested at NASA's Goddard centre. A structure, wrapped in gold blankets, is being tested to see whether or not it can withstand the extreme temperatures of space.

Hubble has been peering deep into space for more than 22 years.

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