NEW YORK -- A life-size model of a huge new space observatory billed as the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is taking on the Big Apple this week at the World Science Festival.
The gigantic telescope model – roughly the size of a tennis court – will be on display at New York City's Battery Park from Tuesday through Sunday, June 6. The actual James Webb Space Telescope is slated to launch in 2014.
"The Webb is the world's next great space telescope, and is the scientific successor to the Hubble," said Sally Koris, spokeswoman for Northrop Grumman, the company contracted by NASA to build the telescope."
The full-scale model on display is constructed mainly of aluminum and steel, and weighs 12,000 pounds. It measures about 80 feet long, 40 feet wide and 40 feet tall.
The James Webb telescope will observe the universe in long-wavelength infrared light to peer at the most distant objects in the universe, beyond the reach of ground based telescopes or the Hubble observatory. It will study the origins of stars and galaxies in the universe, as well as a host of other cosmic questions.
The World Science Festival opening ceremonies, which are free and open to the public, will take place on Tuesday at 11 a.m. EDT. Speakers will include NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, along with Dave DiCarlo, vice president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Brian Greene, festival co-founder; and Warrie Price, president of Battery Park Conservancy.
The festival is a week-long program in New York featuring 40 events on a range of scientific topics hosted by luminaries across many fields.
"The World Science Festival is a great opportunity for people to get a look at, and learn more about, the future of astronomy from space," said Eric Smith, NASA's Webb program scientist. "The Webb telescope full scale model dramatically highlights how far the next generation of space telescopes will be from its predecessors. It's unlike any telescope you've ever seen."
The observatory, a NASA-led international collaboration between 15 countries, was named after NASA's second administrator James E. Webb. Northrop Grumman has been working on the telescope since 2002.
"This is a very complex instrument," Koris told SPACE.com. "We had to develop 10 new technologies in order to be able to build this instrument."
The Northrop Grumman-built mock-up required two trucks to ship it, and a 12-person crew about four days to assemble. The model will also be lit up from its base so that it is visible at night.