Why the James Webb Space Telescope looks like that

James Webb Space Telescope

After 25 years and almost $10 billion, the James Webb Space Telescope has left planet Earth. Billed as a successor to the precious and cherished Hubble Space Telescope, Webb’s mirror is six times larger and its instruments are tuned to observe longer wavelengths, in order to find the stretched-out light from primitive galaxies 13.5 billion light-years away.

That main mission — to see the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang — determined the unusual and challenging design of the telescope. Instead of a shiny tube, the Webb Telescope looks like a giant honeycomb riding on a silver surfboard. The short response to why it looks like that is: It needs to be very large and very cold.

NASA astrophysicist Amber Straughn and Vox’s Joss Fong create a small model of the telescope to study its extraordinary design, check out the video below.

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