NASA’s deep space vision is becoming clearer.
The James Webb Space Telescope She finished the alignment phase after demonstrating her ability to take “clear, well-focused images” using all four of her science instruments, the agency announce Wednesday (April 28).
The achievement, which NASA has shown with some new Webb images, allows the mission team to move forward with the commissioning of science instruments. Thus, the telescope will enter a new phase of preparation after several months of alignment with the mirror and the instrument. This next step will take nearly two months, with Webb staying on track to finish in June if all goes as planned.
“These images profoundly changed the way I see the universe,” Scott Acton, Webb Wavefront Sensing and Control Scientist at Ball Aerospace, said in a NASA statement. “We are surrounded by the symphony of creation; there are galaxies everywhere. I hope everyone in the world can see them.”
Live updates: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope mission
Related: How does the James Webb Space Telescope work?
It’s been a busy time for the $10 billion telescope since then launch it on December 25, 2021. First, Webb had to blast off a rocket into deep space, a process that took about a month, after which she had a complex seven-step alignment process to get through. Every major milestone has been pretty much planned, with only minor tweaks made along the way.
A week ago, Web officials reported that the 18 hexagons of the scope’s primary mirror were Almost completely chilled For deep space temperatures they need to see things sharply in infrared light. Now the mirrors look ready, because they send a “fully focused light” to each machine, which in turn presents the images.
“The telescope’s optical performance remains better than the engineering team’s most optimistic predictions,” NASA officials said in the statement, noting that the image quality was “limited diffraction.” (This means that the only obstacle to seeing fine details is the size of the telescope, not a problem with its performance.) From now on, the agency added, the mirror’s alignment will only need minor adjustments.
The next stage of work will include the commissioning of the scientific instruments, along with the calibration of the telescope. Operating the instrument requires lenses, masks, filters, and other equipment to function properly in various configurations, to ensure that it can perform scientific work.
For calibration activities, there is a list of milestones that Webb will need to access before declaring its operation.
“The telescope will be directed to different regions of the sky, where the total amount of solar radiation hitting the observatory will vary to confirm thermal stability when changing targets,” NASA officials said of the calibration.
“Furthermore, continuous maintenance observations every two days will monitor mirror alignment and, when needed, apply corrections to keep the mirrors in their aligning positions,” they added.
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