James Webb took the first sharp photo of the star
The critical phase of the James Webb Space Telescope mirror alignment is over; The advanced observatory will start full scientific observations in a few months.
On March 11, the telescope completed the final stage of correcting the defects caused by the adjustment of the mirrors. No bugs were detected and the web team is confident that all optical settings are working perfectly.
“More than twenty years ago, the Web team set out to build the most powerful space telescope in history and developed a bold optical design to meet the demands of science. “Today we can say that this design is ready to start working,” said Thomas Zurbukhen, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Directorate of Science Missions.
To show off the capabilities, the web focused on a single star called 2MASS J17554042 + 6551277, better known as TYC 4212-1079-1.
This bright object is about 2,000 light-years away from us and is 16 times brighter than our sun, or a good target for the web. A red filter was used to optimize visual contrast; While the telescope was looking at the star, its instruments were so sensitive that it detected the stars and galaxies in the background as well.
“We completely adjusted the telescope and focused on the star; Performance exceeds specifications. “We are excited about what this means for science,” said Ritva Keski-Kuha, a Web group scientist.
Segmented telescopes exist on Earth, but the Web is the first space telescope with segmented mirrors, comprising 18 discrete hexagonal segments.
Aligning these mirrors is crucial; In order to produce a single mirror surface, it is necessary to correct them with nanometer accuracy. Given that the telescope is far away from us and it is impossible to send missions to repair it, it is crucial that all the details work properly.
The Webb is located in the gravitationally stable region of space, which forms the interaction between the earth and the sun, and is called the second point of Lagrange, the same L2. These stable regions are ideal for “parking” spacecraft, as fuel consumption is minimal there.
In 2014, the European Space Agency ship Gaia, which is working on a map of the deer leap, was also stopped at point L2. Shortly after the arrival of the new telescope, Gaia was able to shoot the web with her instrument. In the photo you can see it marked with a green circle. At that time, on February 18, the two telescopes were a million kilometers apart.
Over the next six weeks, the web alignment will be completed. The telescope will then begin final preparations for scientific operations. We should expect the first results this summer.
The James Webb Space Telescope observes space in the infrared range. It tells us more about the world than we see today. Shows us the far reaches of the universe, gives us much information about the formation of stars, planets and galaxies, looks into the atmosphere of distant exoplanets and finds signs of life there.
Incredibly exciting news awaits us ahead.