What are the Programming Languages Used in The James Web Telescope?

4 min readJan 14, 2022

A telescope is designed to look distant objects closer by using various lenses and curved mirrors. It helps in finding long-distance objects that look clear and distinct. In short, a telescope is a magnifying glass that helps us to look at objects closer. Most primarily, telescopes are used to find stars, and galaxies from the earth. Surprisingly, Scientists from NASA have discovered a giant telescope and named it the James E. Webb telescope. The prime work for this telescope is to identify the origin of the universe by orbiting the sun. It observes faint infrared signals of distant objects and delivers accurate images of the objects.

However, telescopes work fine when mirrors and lenses are arranged accordingly. Although, human work would never work fine. Therefore, technology is replaced with human work to perfectly design the body of the telescope. The James Web telescope has built using modern technology called XML. It is known as a common extensible markup language. It is used to represent structured information such as documents, data, books, transactions, invoices, etc.

XML Database in JWST

XML (extensible Markup Language) is a tag-based language used for describing web pages. It is completely independent of any website platform, such as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), which is the underlying code used to create most websites. Learn how to make your website or blog more accessible to search engines with our free tips. In addition, XML is used to store data and works as a database.

In order to extract data from the machine, developers need a database to store the information. As a result, NASA scientists used XML language as their database. It is helping in exchanging information, migrating data from different ground systems components. It also reduces the testing needed for each database release. However, the scientists planned to implement an XML central database at their institute and access different database functions from the telescope. Therefore, it becomes easy for them to access the data directly from the satellite.

The most interesting fact about the James web satellite is they started using XML in 2001. In prior to that, scientists tested a prototype using the Earth Observation System with the AURA satellite. The data inside the database is approximately 25000 data items. It took almost two weeks to convert that data into the JWST XML database. Later on, the team worked very hard to manage the database systems to work on a standard desktop PC. The PC that runs windows 2000NT with 256MB RAM at 1.87GHz clock speed.

Furthermore, after all the testing was completed, the satellite was sent to space. Since then, the JWST XML growth had begun. As can be described, the database was installed with the following directory with directed command and telemetry lines. Moving forward, more directories have been added and also more command lines have been created. Currently, it is working with various suppliers of systems to incorporate the XML directly. It helps in communicating the information directly to the database without having multiple data transformations.

Let us understand JWST XML compatibility

The data inside the spacecraft should migrate to various ground systems components, and the migration is responsible for the spacecraft vendor. Earlier, this process is used to be expensive and time is taken. When the JWST installed XML systems as their database, the data migration between components became very easy. Also, the database could solve multiple problems in the systems. Currently, JWST XML has been used in systems like simulators, front-end processors, engineering archives, and analysis systems.

New technology inventions in James Webb Space Telescope

Since the technology improved a lot IT engineers are supervising large operations by installing small software applications in them. In fact, in JWST IT specialists installed software applications and ran them with computers. One of the great technological add is giant mirrors. There are 18 giant mirror segments attached to the telescope. The 18 segments will form as a giant mirror. This large mirror can help to study stars and galaxies in space.

Illustration of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope when fully unfolded

Source: Space.com

In addition, there are several new technologies have been added

Near and mid-infrared detectors, sunshield materials, microshutters, wavefront sensing, and control. All these systems have functioned with the help of software. IT engineers are responsible to handle those applications and update the results to the scientists.

The current update of JWST

The James Webb Space Telescope is fully deployed. On Jan, 8 its successfully unfolded its final primary mirror. Now it is on its way to its final destination. By Jan 23, it might reach its location called Earth-sun Lagrange point 2. The distance is estimated at up to 930,000 miles. Once it reaches its parking spot, the scientists, and engineers work on mirror development. It soon starts on Jan 11.


Most likely, the images sent by JWST will be blurred. Since the telescope has not been fully aligned it takes several months to deploy its actions. Most probably, the telescope would take more than 120 days from its arrival. The first images would-be stars, and a Large Magellanic Cloud.

The evolution of the James Webb Telescope would discover many new things in space and also the origin of space prior to the Big Bang theory.

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