Many astrophysics missions use telescopes aboard spacecraft to circumvent the atmospheric interference inherent to all Earth-bound facilities. Free of these constraints, space-based telescopes can scan the universe using sensors sensitive various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, infrared space telescope. Its main mission is to observe some of the first galaxies that formed in the early universe, connecting the Big Bang theory to the development of our own Milky Way Galaxy. In September, Ball Aerospace delivered the first two of JWST’s 18 primary mirror segments to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), where NASA is assembling the telescope.
ESA’s Herschel and Planck observatories were launched together in May 2009, and both are being used to study the evolution of distant stars and the effects of the Big Bang. In July 2010, both missions made noteworthy progress: the Planck mission produced its first map of the entire sky at microwave wavelengths, while the Journal Astronomy & Astrophysics published a special issue dedicated to Herschel, featuring 152 papers based on new data from the mission.