Go Webb!

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb for short) is on its way to its final orbit around the L2 Lagrange point, 1.5 million kilometers away from us. Check out the JWST Web Site for lots of information.

While on its way, we tried to capture the JWST with the telescopes at the TURMX observatory. Unlike the usual satellites, it is very far away and moving rather slowly. So we did not track on JWST but just imaged a fixed star field to see the satellite move through – this is more like observing asteroids.

Here is a first time lapse of a sequence of images taken on December 31, 2021, i.e. about 5.5 days after launch. At this point JWST was about 650 000 km away and just about to start the deployment of the mechanical structures for the sunshade. It was a 15th to 16th magnitude object at that point. The images were taken with our PlaneWave CDK17 with a luminance filter and 120sec exposure time.

Can you see Webb moving through the frame?

Below is a second time lapse taken on January 6, 2022, about 12.5 days after launch. At this point Webb was 950 000 km from earth and it had completed the deployment of the sunshades. Despite being much farther away, it was still between 15th and 16th magnitude because of the large sunshade.

If you want to look out for the JWST yourself, you can compute the present coordinates using the JPL/NASA Horizons Web App, just search for target body “JWST”.