The status of the James Webb Space Telescope has been a source of frustration for professional and amateur astronomers alike the past several years.
The advanced telescope initially was supposed to launch in October 2018, but it's not yet up in space.
Actually, it was delayed several more times, and now won't be launched until 2021.
But amid all the disappointment, there is some good news to share. NASA said Wednesday that, for the first time, the telescope has been assembled.
The two halves were joined at Northrup Grumman's facility in Redondo Beach, Calif. The next step will be to electrically connect the two halves and get it further ready for launch into space.
According to an article by The Verge, one of the delays came about because technicians weren't ready to test or piece together the telescope. According to space.com, it was pushed back again after small tears in the sunshield were found, and more time was needed for testing.
Sometimes things are more complicated than we think. The best laid plans don't always lead to something fruitful. Such is life. With the James Webb, there seems to be a lot of unforeseen issues that perhaps could have been taken care of earlier, or perhaps not. Either way, this telescope will be launched into space in 2021, and with it, scientists hope to accomplish some pretty cool things.
One thing the James Webb will be able to do is look back 13.5 billion years ago, when our universe was first taking shape. It will be able to see the first stars and galaxies being born. The telescope will do this by taking mid-infrared and near-infrared surveys of the cosmos, enhancing our views of the far reaches of space.
Furthermore, the telescope will help astronomers understand how galaxies came to be shaped the way they are.
Perhaps one of the more exciting things the James Webb Space Telescope will do is study the atmospheres of exoplanets, planets traveling around other stars in our galaxy. What we are looking for is, of course, planets with nitrogen, oxygen and water vapor signatures. Planets with that atmospheric composition likely would be similar to Earth.
The telescope will take the spectrum of a planet during the period of time a star dims as the planet, however small, crosses its disc. The spectrum can tell us lots of things about the planet, even though we might not be able to see it. The James Webb will be able to take photos of exoplanets, though they will only be points of light, like the way Jupiter's Galilean moons look through a telescope.
There's all that in more ... you're encouraged to go to jwst.nasa.gov to find out what else the James Webb will hopefully uncover. Ideally, there will be no more setbacks, and this telescope will finally be an excellent resource for humanity soon.
Contact Joe Malan, astronomy writer for the Enid News & Eagle, at email@example.com.