New telescope to unlock mysteries of the cosmos

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Is there life on other planets? How did the first stars form? What happened in the turbulent early days of the universe?

These are the tantalizing questions that the James Webb Space Telescope is meant to investigate.

After more than three decades of development, the tennis court-sized observatory is set to launch into orbit around the sun this month. It will be able to see deeper into space and in greater detail than any space or ground-based telescope to date.

The telescope’s mission is to unravel the most enduring mysteries in space, peering through more than 13 billion years of cosmic history with instruments sensitive enough to sniff out the atmospheres of exoplanets — including possibly faint biosignatures of alien life — and examine previously undetectable regions of space.

NASA is calling this an “Apollo moment” — a giant leap forward that could revolutionize our understanding of the universe and humanity’s place in it.

Some 40 million hours of work by thousands of scientists and engineers across three space agencies have gone into building the Webb telescope. And now, it is finally ready to come online.

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