Here’s Why James Webb Space Telescope Uses Golden Mirrors

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James Webb Space Telescope is the most powerful and the largest telescope to ever embrace the skies. Just within a few days of starting operations, the telescope has chronicled breathtaking images of the universe. The telescope gave astronomers and researchers a peek into the past, showing how the early universe looked like 13 billion years ago.

 
Here’s Why James Webb Space Telescope Uses Golden Mirrors

But what has intrigued space enthusiasts the most is the gold-plated mirrors on the telescope. Yes, it’s real gold. But what’s the reason for JWST to use these gold-plated mirrors? Well, mirrors on a telescope are required to have some kind of coating with some sort of metal, allowing it to reflect as much light as possible. The metal type depends on the type of light a telescope is staring at.

So Why Gold For James Webb Space Telescope?

There are two major reasons for using gold mirrors for the telescope as per Paul Geithner, a Deputy Project Manager for JWST at NASA. One reason is that the UV and visible light emitted by the early luminous objects that formed the universe has been stretched due to the expansion of the universe.

Secondly, the planets and stars form in clouds of dust and gas, and this dust can come in the way of our vision. Infrared light goes through these clouds and enables the telescope to see what’s inside. To observe infrared light, the telescope’s mirrors have been made to reflect as much light as they can.

Leveraging Reflection Properties Of Metals

As per NASA’s Elements of the Webb Series, there are only a few metals that are capable of doing something exceptional when it comes to reflecting light. Aluminum reflects 85%, silver stands at 95%, and gold can reflect light up to 99%. Gold is also among the most unreactive metals, making it very durable to oxidize in space.

 

To get the most of gold’s reflective properties, the gold coating is applied to the telescope’s mirrors in a process known as “vacuum vapor deposition.” In this process, the mirrors are placed inside a vacuum chamber, and a small amount of gold is vaporized and deposited on the mirror.

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