August 10, 2022

Watch the James Webb Space Telescope’s last days on Earth in this time-lapse video

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope secured atop rocket ahead of Dec. 24 launch (photos)
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope secured atop rocket ahead of Dec. 24 launch (photos)NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope secured atop rocket ahead of Dec. 24 launch (photos)

It’s been a month since the James Webb Space Telescope launched to space and you can revisit its last days on Earth in a stunning new time-lapse video.

On Dec. 25, the James Webb Space Telescope lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana aboard an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket. In the month since its liftoff, Webb has traveled almost one million miles (1.5 million kilometers) through space, reaching its final destination on Monday (Jan. 24).  

But to make this million-mile journey, Webb had to prepare here on Earth. A new time-lapse video from the European Space Agency shows some of the highlights from Webb’s time on Earth preparing for this trip. The video shows it sailing across the ocean, being folded, unfolded, refolded and assembled for launch, finally ending with launch day. 

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This artist's impression shows the selected design for the James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace are the prime contractors for JWST.

This artist’s impression shows the selected design for the James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace are the prime contractors for JWST. (Image credit: ESA)

Webb’s lengthy, month-long journey through space has taken it to a far-off new home: L2, the second Lagrange point, a gravitationally stable point in space opposite the sun where Webb will orbit as it works. Webb completed a mid-course correction burn, an insertion burn that put it into orbit around L2 successfully on Monday (Jan. 24).

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Now at L2, Webb will spend the next few weeks cooling down before spending a period of about five months preparing its science instruments to start working. 

Webb’s science instruments are expected to start observing the cosmos about six months from launch and, with a successful arrival yesterday, the telescope appears to be right on track. 

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.