An Arianne 5 rocket took off at 1:20 PM Brussels Time on Saturday from the European space centre in Kourou, French Guiana, to launch the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) into its final orbit some 1.5 million kilometres above Earth, according to French news agency AFP.
The JWST, built by the US Space agency NASA with the collaboration of the European and Canadian space agencies, is set to revolutionise the observation of outer space.
It should enable the observation of the first planets that appeared after the Big Bang, as well as exoplanets and the formation of the stars.
“This is a great day—not only for America and our European and Canadian partners, but it’s a great day for Planet Earth … [JWST is] going to take us back to the very beginnings of the universe,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson was quoted as saying by in postlaunch remarks.
As JWST separated from its rocket’s upper stage, a video feed showed the now-independent spacecraft gleaming in sunlight, capturing one last close-up look at the observatory before its quest to pierce the veil of cosmic darkness took it inaccessibly far from Earth, the Scientific American magazine reported.
“When we look farther, delve deeper, or measure more precisely, we’re bound to find something wondrous,” said Ken Sembach, the Space Telescope Science Institute’s director. “Today we said goodbye to the telescope on the ground and we opened our eyes to the universe.”