The massive sun shield protecting the James Webb Space Telescope has been successfully unfurled according to NASA.
The process, which began after its Christmas day launch, has completed its initial phase today. While tests and tensioning will still need to done the most complicated phase of the deployment is now complete.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the largest and most technically complex space science telescope ever built.
As the telescope is so large it had to be folded up to fit inside its launch vehicle. That means the next few weeks will be spent unfolding and testing the telescope before it can begin its work.
The project required collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency and has taken decades to develop and build.
As the telescope will be close to the Sun it requires a massive sun shield to protect itself from heat and other harmful rays.
The shield is made of five layers of Kapton – a lightweight material with special thermal properties.
Heat radiates out from each layer and the vacuum between each acts as an incredibly good insulator.
This means that the shaded side of the telescope is 300 degrees colder than the side facing the sun.
Once the deployment of the sun shield is complete the next phase of the telescope’s mission will be deploying and testing its primary and secondary mirrors.
NASA believes this will start on Jan. 7th. However, once complete it won’t be until late June that the telescope will begin normal operations and we can expect to see any images from it.