The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to be deployed in 2013, giving scientists a deeper look into space than the existing Hubble Space Telescope. Its task will be to gather infrared light from objects more than 13 billion years old, using technologies that until recently did not exist.
The new telescope’s primary mirror (below) is more than six meters in diameter, with a surface area seven times that of Hubble’s. The mirror’s size will allow the telescope to collect more light more quickly than previous telescopes and achieve better resolution. “It is extremely lightweight, with very precise optical surfaces,” says John Decker, the deputy associate director of the project at NASA.