The James Webb Space Telescope is the most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. The telescope boasts two new Canadian technologies designed to capture images invisible to any other existing telescope. Once launched from an Ariane 5 rocket — from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at the European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana — the telescope will help broaden our understanding of the universe.
To celebrate and learn more about this new telescope, check out a range of hands-on activities below.
Paper model: James Webb Space Telescope
Colour and assemble your very own three-dimensional model of the telescope.
Colouring page: James Webb Space Telescope
What colours do you imagine seeing in space? Get creative with your pencil crayons or markers!
Decorate and assemble your own constellation pinwheel — then watch it spin in the wind.
Fun Facts about the Ariane 5 rocket and the James Webb Space Telescope
Here are some fun facts you may not know about the Ariane 5 rocket and the James Webb Space Telescope.
- It weighs 780 tons.
The Ariane 5 is only about five stories high, but it packs a lot of weight. It has a mass of 780 tons, which is roughly the same as 390 adult male elephants!
- Its payload was a maximum of 10 metric tons
The Ariane 5’s payload — which refers to the objects it’s carrying — was only about one per cent of the rocket’s total weight. For this December 2021 launch, the payload was the James Webb Space Telescope and a new satellite for the European Aviation Network.
- The James Webb Space Telescope was folded up to fit inside the nose of the Ariane 5 rocket.
NASA’s largest and most complex space science telescope to date, the James Webb Space Telescope was too big for any rocket in its fully expanded form. The telescope was designed to fold in on itself, to achieve a much smaller configuration inside the tip of the Ariane 5 — which is 6.5 metres in diameter. Once in space, the telescope unfolded and stretched itself out in a period of two weeks. Watch a short short video of the folding telescope from NASA (English only).
- The sound of a rocket taking off could knock down a building.
During the testing process, NASA engineers determined the acoustic energy from a rocket launch could actually knock down a building! Water jets on the launch pad are used to suppress the sound; the liquid dampens the sound wave of the launch by increasing the resistance on it, thus slowing down the sound wave.
- Canada has contributed two cool technologies to the James Webb Space Telescope.
One of the reasons this launch is so exciting is because Canada is part of the mission. The James Webb Space Telescope includes two pieces of Canadian technology: the Near Infrared imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) and the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS). The NIRISS is both an imager and a spectrograph, so it can take pictures and study the spectra or the light of objects. The FGS is like the eyes of the telescope; it ensures that every single image or picture taken by the telescope is crisp and clear and sharp.
Interested in learning more about what the James Webb Space Telescope will capture in its photographs? Visit the Canadian Space Agency’s What Webb Will Observe.
Ariane 5 Edible Holiday Rocket
Make your very own edible version of the Ariane 5 rocket, using a recipe and step-by-step instructions from award-winning pastry artist Catherine Beddall.
Dr. Nathalie Ouellette is an astrophysicist and the Canadian Outreach Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency. Through three short videos, Dr. Ouellette shares some insights about the new telescope. Learn more and watch the videos in The James Webb Space Telescope: A powerful new space observatory.