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Watch an astrophysicist explain how NASA's next space telescope will help us time-travel through the Universe

In just less than two years, NASA is slated to launch the most powerful space telescope that’s ever been built. It’s the James Webb Space Telescope, of JWST, and it’s being hailed as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that is currently in orbit around Earth. There’s a key difference, though, between the spacecraft. Whereas Hubble sees the Universe in mostly visible light, JWST will observe the cosmos in the infrared — a type of light that can’t be seen but is associated with heat emission. The JWST will capture this kind of light using a segmented mirror more than 20 feet across, allowing the observatory to look deeper into the Universe, and further back in time, than ever before.

At the end of last year, NASA celebrated the completion ofthe optics portion of the JWST — the mirror and instruments the telescope will use to study the most distant galaxies and star systems. Now, the space agency is putting the JWST through a series of tests to make sure the spacecraft will be able to handle its launch into space on a European Ariane 5 rocket in October 2018.

As NASA gets the JWST ready for space travel, one of the agency’s astrophysicists, Amber Straughn, will give an update on the telescope’s progress. Straughn, the associate director of the astrophysics science division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, studies the Universe’s most puzzling phenomena — from supermassive black holes to the evolution of galaxies. Tonight, during a lecture at the Perimeter Institute for TheoreticalPhysics, she will talk about the development of JWST and what the completed spacecraft will teach us about the Universe.

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