NASA has released images of the giant mirror that will allow the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s successor, to look into the cosmos and see galaxies that are over 13.5 billion years old.
The mirror is constructed of 18 hexagonal segments made of beryllium, weighing about 46 pounds each, that are coated with an incredibly thin layer of gold— a material ideal for reflecting light in the infrared part of the spectrum. The space agency has estimated that the amount of gold used on the mirror has about the same weight as a golf ball.
The mirror, shown inside a clean room at the Goddard Space Flight Center, can fold up to fit in a rocket. The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to blast off in 2018; NASA says that the new instrument “will be the most powerful space telescope ever built.”