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The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope is almost here. What will we discover?

Engineers and technicians assemble the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Engineers and technicians assemble the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

It’s been more than 20 years since scientists set their sights on creating a successor for the Hubble telescope.

Now, the James Webb Space Telescope — a $10 billion infrared instrument — is set to launch one million miles away from Earth on Dec. 24.

What will it help us discover? And what’s at stake?

From National Geographic’s Nadia Drake:

In the case of JWST, the vibrant landscapes surrounding the complex serve as a reminder of the space telescope’s mission: to help scientists understand how we got here—how, from the tangle of molecules, stars, galaxies, black holes, and planets that populate the universe, the ingredients necessary for life emerged and combined to make this place called Earth. Are the conditions that favored this thriving, noisy biosphere common among the millions, or perhaps billions, of rocky planets populating the galaxy?

We meet one of the head scientists behind the telescope — plus, three astronomers whose future work hinges on the discoveries of the mission.

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