The next great observatory is improving its vision and is going well on its way to unraveling the mysteries of the Universe.
NASA has announced that the James Webb telescope has completed the fourth and fifth stages of its alignment and scientists say that the performance of its imaging system is at or beyond their most optimistic expectations.
The James Webb Space Telescope launched in December, arrived at its station nearly 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth in January, and has been hard at work preparing to conduct the $10 billion mission’s intended science. The spacecraft reached another significant milestone in its preparations on March 11 when it completed “fine phasing,” the agency announced on Wednesday (March 16).
The telescope has also met all of the optical parameters required by engineers and is accurately delivering light to its instruments. NASA is confident that the observatory will meet its scientific objectives as a result of this accomplishment.
“We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is beating specifications. We are excited about what this means for science,” Ritva Keski-Kuha, deputy optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a NASA statement. “We now know we have built the right telescope.”
According to the statement, the new image is centered on a star known as 2MASS J17554042+6551277. This is a new target for the observatory: Previous steps in the commissioning process focused on HD 84406, a star in the constellation Ursa Major located approximately 241 light-years from Earth.
Other stars and galaxies that the agency did not identify can also be seen in the background.