Scientists have made a breakthrough on a NASA telescope that will allow mankind to peer back in time – and potentially help in the hunt for extraterrestrial life.
The groundbreaking James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is due to launch next year.
It has been assembled at Northrop Grumman Space Park in Redondo Beach, California, in the US.
The mission is entering its final year of tests before the telescope is shipped to the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana for a March 2021 take-off.
Scott Willoughby, programme manager at Northrop Grumman, detailed the progress that has been made.
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He told Fast Company: “Over the last few years, we were working in two halves. Until the summer of last year, they were in a very long engagement, and they got married.
“We put the two halves together to create an observatory. We’re celebrating that success.”
The huge project has involved scientists and engineers from 24 countries and NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the European Space Agency.
Willoughby added: “Where do we come from and are we alone, is the overarching mission.
“We’ve never seen a star formed that wasn’t a product of an exploded star.
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“What made the ‘lumpiness’ come together and ignite the first stars?
“Every time you think you know something, you want to prove it out, to actually see how it happens.”
The telescope will scan light from stars and galaxies, and will be able to see 13.7 billion light-years through space.
One of its goals is to find new planets outside of the solar system and scan their atmospheres for signs of extraterrestrial life.
The JWST will also “look back in time” by scanning light emitted by distant galaxies and stars.
Professor Alistair Glasse, of the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, said: "Light takes a finite team to reach us because it doesn't reach our eyes instantly.
"The further away an object is, the longer that light has been travelling before we detect it.
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"With the telescope we can look as far away as the edge of the visible universe.”
Last April, a former NASA scientist claimed time travel is possible because the “speed of light is changing”.
Louise Riofrio is involved in a project that will put an atomic clock into the International Space Station to “verify” her theory.
She reached the conclusion that the speed of light is changing while working at NASA.
The scientist analysed lasers that bounced off reflectors left by astronauts on the moon, which appeared to show it was moving too fast.
But – when she compared it to various experiments on Earth using fossils, observations of ancient eclipses and computer simulations – she found it was actually moving more slowly.
It led her to believe that “the speed of laser light slowing had caused the moon to appear to be moving faster”.
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