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Astronomers hope that some of the techniques in development during the past two decades for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can be reapplied later for even larger observatories that would be able to produce unprecedented resolution of distant phenomena, including star birth and the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars.

While engineers struggle to meet a 2018 launch deadline for the 6.5-meter (21-ft.), $8.8 billion JWST, small groups of scientists are looking for ways to use the sophisticated technology in that infrared instrument to launch an aperture almost twice as large.

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