The most sophisticated telescope humans have ever built is finally fully aligned. After a long process of several months, James Webb has finally completed the seventh and final stage of his programming. Next comes the calibration of the instruments, after which the telescope is ready to start scientific operations.
“It’s full of stars!” ✨
This mosaic represents a sparkling turning point as we #ExpandThe Universe. #NASAWebbThe mirrors are now fully aligned! Next comes the calibration of the instruments, the final phase before Webb is ready for science: https://t.co/PcAxajyMfI
What do we see here? ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/qzdZRbsgRF
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) April 28, 2022
“After completing the seventh and final stage of the telescope alignment, the team held a series of meetings to make key decisions and unanimously agreed that Webb is ready to move on to its next and final round of preparations, known as the commissioning of scientific instruments. This process will take approximately two months before science operations begin this summer.” NASA said in a statement.
Webb confirmed that the alignment went perfectly smoothly, capturing sharp and well-focused images with each of its four powerful onboard science instruments. The next phase will last about 2 months, allowing observations to start on schedule, in the middle of the year.
The fact that the new telescope is “fully aligned” means that Webb’s mirrors now direct the fully focused light collected from space to each instrument. And it showed that each instrument succeeds in capturing images with the light that reaches them. In the mosaic below, each image is a demonstration of one of Webb’s instruments fully aligned with the telescope and in focus.
“These remarkable test images of a successfully aligned telescope demonstrate what people from all countries and continents can achieve when there is a bold scientific vision to explore the universe,” says Lee FeinbergWebb Optical Telescope Element Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
It should be noted that although the alignment of the telescope has been completed, some calibration activities remain to be carried out. Webb’s team said: “As part of the start-up of the science instrument, the telescope will be commanded to point to different areas of the sky where the total amount of solar radiation hitting the observatory will vary to confirm thermal stability to change. In addition, continuous maintenance observations every two days will monitor the alignment of the mirrors and, if necessary, apply corrections to keep the mirrors in their aligned place.
Each instrument is a highly sophisticated set of detectors fitted with unique custom lenses, masks, filters and equipment that help it perform the science for which it was designed. The specialized features of these instruments will be configured and operated in various combinations during the commissioning phase of the instruments to fully confirm their readiness for science, explains NASA.
“These images profoundly changed the way I see the universe. We are surrounded by a symphony of creation; there are galaxies everywhere! I hope everyone can see them.” Scott Acton saidWebb Wavefront Detection and Control Scientist, Ball Aerospace.
James Webb is currently orbiting Lagrange Point 2 (L2), 1.5 million kilometers from Earth in the opposite direction to the Sun. Its sophisticated technology and field of vision (infrared) will allow it during its scientific observations to capture the light that has been traveling in space for 13.5 billion years, when the first stars and galaxies were formed. Every wait will be worth it.
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