by Misty Severi,

The James Webb Space Telescope successfully deployed its sun shield on Tuesday, a major achievement for engineers in the trickiest part of the telescope’s unraveling.

The process of deploying the shield, which contains five layers designed to protect the instrument from going over -370 degrees Fahrenheit, took two days to complete after the process began Monday. The first photographs from the telescope are expected in summer 2022.

“This is a really big moment,” Bill Ochs, the project manager for the telescope, said to the mission team after the deployment was complete, according to “I just want to congratulate the entire team. We still got a lot of work to do but getting the sunshield out and deployed is really, really big.”

The telescope, which took nearly three decades to build, launched on Christmas 2021. The project, a joint effort with NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency, cost the United States $9.7 billion.

With the sun shield fully operational, the team will move on to deploying the telescope’s second mirror beginning Tuesday evening. The telescope is expected to go to Lagrange Point 2, also called L2, a location approximately 930,000 miles away from Earth. It is expected to reach L2 at the end of January.

Once the telescope reaches its location, it will be fully deployed, allowing the mirrors to cool down to an operating temperature, a process that is expected to take 100 days. When the telescope is cooled down, it will be able to take its first photographs.

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The telescope is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, which launched in 1990. The Webb telescope features technology that will be used to detect the oldest light in the universe by capturing infrared wavelengths.

By don

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