Inside the Star Factory
The Creation of the James Webb Space Telescope, NASA's Largest and Most Powerful Space Observatory
200 pp., 10 x 11 in, 100 color illus.
- Published: October 17, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
A fascinating, ground-level photographic documentary of the creation, launch, and reach of the James Webb Space Telescope.
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, the world's largest orbiting astronomy observatory, is now nearly a million miles from Earth, probing the first stars and galaxies, documenting the structure and evolution of the universe, and searching for signs of life in other solar systems. In a series of extraordinary photographs, Inside the Star Factory tells the story of the Webb telescope from conception to launch—a marvel of ingenuity and engineering that entailed more than 100 million people hours over a span of thirty years.
The project's lead photographer Chris Gunn was there from the start, documenting the Webb's tumultuous history—the behind-the-scenes details of its construction, from the cutting-edge technology required for an observatory operating at temperatures as low as –370°F, beyond reach for repair, to the human story of an engineering team pursuing an unprecedented goal under incomparable pressure. Derided as the “telescope that ate astronomy,” billions of dollars over budget, ten years over schedule, nearly canceled twice, Webb was simply too big to fail.
Accompanied by science writer Christopher Wanjek's overview of the Webb's history and profiles of the scientists and engineers who built it, this exclusive photographic documentary shows readers the heady world of scientific discovery at the very limits of human knowledge—and the very beginning of space and time.