Finally, the James Webb Space Telescope can look at our beautiful universe. The last time we reported on the marvelous machine it had taken its first stunning image of a star and was waiting for its other instruments to cool and align.
NASA’s Webb team has now released an update that its huge mirror – consisting of 18 gold segments – has now been unfolded and aligned. This mirror is capable of peering at the most distant corners of space, by directing and focusing visible and infrared light from the telescope’s other instruments.
The group has been waiting for Webb’s cold camera to cool to its operational temperature to minus 244 degrees Fahrenheit, reducing interference from the heat of other galaxies. This device was not supposed to be up and running until the end of June, as proper calibration checks still need to take place.
Tests on a neighboring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud – a dense galaxy filled with hundreds of thousands of stars that is perfect to test image resolution – were recently carried out to check up on Webb’s process. To NASA’s surprise, the pictures showed that the telescope is already able to capture crystal clear well-focused images, exceeding expectations of its estimated capabilities.
“These images have profoundly changed the way I see the universe,” said Scott Acton, Webb wavefront sensing and controls scientist at Ball Aerospace. “We are surrounded by a symphony of creation; there are galaxies everywhere! It is my hope that everyone in the world can see them.”
Next, the team will ensure all of Webb’s instruments are calibrated correctly. Each of them requires specialized detectors which have never been used before in this environment, so better to be safe than sorry when gathering such valuable scientific information.
The team predicts by the end of this summer Webb will be raring to go and start unlocking the mysteries of the mysterious universe. In the meantime, more tests and observations will be carried out by the telescope to keep us earthlings intrigued.