The James Webb Space Telescope is fully aligned and ready to observe the universe
Recognized as the world’s first space observatory, Webb has successfully completed a number of milestones over the past few months that have been crucial to aligning its 18 gold mirror segments.
The first high-resolution images of the cosmos collected by Webb aren’t expected until late June, as the observatory’s instruments still need to be calibrated. But test results released Thursday by NASA show the clear, well-focused images that the observatory’s four instruments are capable of capturing. Together, these images share the telescope’s full field of view. Webb’s mirrors direct focused light from space to each instrument and these instruments capture images.
For the test, Webb observed a small nearby satellite galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. The dense field of hundreds of thousands of stars in the galaxy is visible in test images.
“These remarkable test images of a successfully aligned telescope demonstrate what people across countries and continents can achieve when there is a bold scientific vision to explore the universe,” said Lee Feinberg, Elements Manager. of the Webb Optical Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The telescope team expects the observatory to exceed even the goals it was supposed to achieve because it is already performing better than expected.
“These images profoundly changed the way I see the universe,” Scott Acton, Webb wavefront sensing and control scientist at Ball Aerospace, said in a statement. “We are surrounded by a symphony of creation; there are galaxies everywhere! I hope everyone in the world can see them.
A previous image shared in March also showed that Webb can use the individual segments of his mirror as a giant 21-foot, 4-inch (6.5-meter) mirror and capture light from a single star.
Over the next two months, the team will ensure that all scientific instruments are calibrated.
Each instrument has a number of specialized detectors with custom equipment to help achieve Webb’s scientific goals, and all instruments must be configured before they can be declared ready.
And this summer, we’ll see the first glimpses of Webb that could unlock the mysteries of the universe.
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