60 Minutes on Sunday took a look at NASA’s largest and most expensive instrument to date, the James Webb Space Telescope. The Webb, as it is often referred to, was designed to replace the 31-year-old Hubble telescope. It is 100 times more powerful than the Hubble; in fact, Webb is powerful enough to look back in time.

Correspondent Scott Pelley sat down with project astrophysicist Amber Straughn, who explained the importance of the super-powerful telescope.

“Telescopes really are time machines,” Straughn said. “They literally allow us to see into the past. And the reason for that is just due to the nature of how light travels.”

Straughn explained that Webb will be able to locate trace amounts of star light within dark matter, which she referred to as the “scaffolding of the universe.”

“It’s like we have this 14-billion-year-old story of the universe, but we’re missing that first chapter,” Straughn said. “And Webb was specifically designed to allow us to see those very first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang.”

The $10 billion space telescope is set to launch into space Dec. 22. It will send back the first images approximately six months later. And while the Hubble telescope only orbits the Earth at 340 miles, the Webb will travel one million miles and orbit the sun.

60 Minutes airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBS.

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