Monday, June 20, 2011

Mirrors of Gold- The James Webb Telescope

Gold in space is a particular topic that fascinates the mind. The most precious metal on our planet also happens to be one of the most important in outside of it, and gold is prominent in man-made objects in space. The Cash 4 Gold blog has addressed The Golden Record, and The Hubble Telescope, twice chronicling the special role gold plays in outer space.

Today, we look at the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the Hubble that contains golden observatory mirrors almost twice the size of a human being.

The James Webb Space telescope is planned for takeoff in 2018, and it features 18 hexagonal mirrors that will be used to help the telescope’s imaging processes. The 18 mirrors are covered in “a 6.5 meter diameter gold-coated beryllium reflector”. Like the Hubble Telescope before it, and other in-space instruments, Gold was the primary choice for the sensitive instruments because of the strength of the precious metal. Gold is considered the most malleable and ductile metal on earth, as well as highly resistant to acidic attacks. But just how special is Gold for it to be chosen year after year in space-based scientific endeavors?

This article on Physorg describes how powerful gold is in its use on the James Webb Telescope:

“During cryogenic testing, the mirrors are subjected to extreme temperatures dipping to -415 degrees Fahrenheit, which permits NASA contractor engineers to measure in extreme detail how the shape of the mirror changes as it cools -- just as each mirror will change shape over a range of operational temperatures in space.”

With the advancement of the James Webb Telescope, NASA is proving yet again that even in space…gold is king.

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