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NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Visits Ireland
Ireland got its first look at the tennis court-sized James Webb Space Telescope during a life-sized model's visit to Dublin during the week of June 11, 2007.

The life sized James Webb Space Telescope model sits in front of the RoyalHospital Kilmainham, in Dublin, Ireland. Image right: The life-sized James Webb Space Telescope model sits in front of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, in Dublin, Ireland. Credit: Richard Bent, Northrop Grumman Space Technology.

The observatory is NASA's next-generation space telescope and will be able to peer back more than 13 billion years in time to understand the formation of galaxies, stars and planets and the evolution of our own solar system. This is no small feat. Looking at starlight is like looking back in time, because it takes the light from those stars years to get to Earth. Light moves at 186,000 miles per second and a light year is the distance light travels in a year, so imagine how far away a star is that is 50 light-years distant from Earth.

Earlier this year, people in the Washington, D.C., area had the opportunity to see the full-scale model of this amazing telescope up close on the National Mall. The model was built and funded by Northrop Grumman Space Technology, which is also building the real James Webb Space Telescope under contract to NASA. Beginning on June 11 and continuing through July, the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies has arranged for the outdoor display of the Telescope model at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin, so media, scientists and the public can get an idea of what the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope will look like. The Institute provides the filters and beam-splitters for one of the telescope's main science instruments. The Irish organizations that are sponsoring the model display include Omega Air, Discover Science and the National Training Authority of Ireland (called FAS in Gaelic). Northrop Grumman’s telescope model was brought to Dublin in conjunction with the James Webb Space Telescope Partner's Workshop, which took place on June 11-14.

Image from movie clip of the JWST on the National Mall in Washington Image left: This is a video of the Webb Telescope's appearance on the National Mall in Washington, DC in May, 2007. + Click for Windows Media Viewer version of the clip
+ Click for Real Media version of the clip Credit: NASA

The life-sized model is constructed mainly of aluminum and steel, weighs 12,000 lbs., and is approximately 80 feet long, 40 feet wide and 40 feet tall. It was specifically designed for an environment subject to gravity and weather. A specially manufactured material imported from France called "Ferrari recontraint" allows the sunshield to 'breathe.' The model requires 2 trucks to ship it over land, and assembly takes a crew of 12 approximately four days.

The actual working components of the telescope are now being manufactured after passing scientific approvals and tests earlier this spring. Once fully assembled and tested, the telescope is expected to launch in 2013.

The NASA-led international partnership for the program includes the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Related Links:

+ James Webb Space Telescope
+ JWST's Ten Inventions

Rob Gutro
Goddard Space Flight Center