The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is now fully aligned, and NASA has the pictures to prove it.
Every mirror on the JWST, the world’s largest and most powerful telescope, is now officially aligned and in focus. To announce the achievement, the team has released a series of stunning images that demonstrate just how sharp the observatory is.
For these test images, Webb was pointed at the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. The sharply focused images show a dense field of hundreds of thousands of stars rendered by each of the JWST’s science instruments.
Not only are its critical instruments exceptionally sharp
but even the fine guidance sensors, which are only used for positioning, produced extremely high-quality images. This is a true testament to the power of the telescope.
“These remarkable test images from 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, JWST optical telescope element manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement.
According to NASA
the telescope’s optical performance “continues to be better than the engineering team’s most optimistic predictions.”
The telescope is made of 18 hexagonal mirrors which had to be angled to extraordinary precision. If each segment was the size of Texas, the offset between the two couldn’t be more than 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches). These mirrors direct fully-focused light from space down into the telescope’s four instruments, with each successfully capturing images from that light delivered to them.
There are still some calibrations to be done
to confirm its thermal stability, pointing at different areas of the sky without causing any changes to the extremely cold temperatures at which its instruments must be kept.
The telescope will now enter the commissioning phase for its scientific instruments. Each of them will be tested and configured to ensure that they are truly ready to begin the scientific mission, which should begin in late June if all goes well.
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