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Launching on Christmas, the James Webb Space Telescope can see objects billions of light-years away

This is an artist's rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. The kite-shaped sunshield is the largest component of the telescope.
NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez
This is an artist's rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. The kite-shaped sunshield is the largest component of the telescope.

Santa Claus won't be the only one flying through the sky on Christmas this year.

NASA is launching a space telescope developed by the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy on Christmas morning — after several delays due to the pandemic and bad weather.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is designed to capture near-infrared light from deep space and see objects that are billions of light-years away.

The telescope will be able to see the first stars and galaxies ever formed in the universe.

JWST is expected to be more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope that launched in 1990 and is still operating 340 miles above Earth’s surface.

"The extremely dark skies and exquisite image quality that we get from Maunakea allows us to really push technology hard and to explore where its limits are in terms of astronomical research potential," said Douglas Simons, the director of the UH Institute for Astronomy.

"It’s an incredible test bed if you will, that Maunakea provides before this type of technology is then replicated and used in observatories all around the world and with JWST, for the first time it’s about to be launched into space, as well," Simons said.

The approximately $10 billion telescope is scheduled to launch from Kourou, French Guiana at 2:20 a.m. on Dec. 25 Hawaiʻi time.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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