Webb telescope reaches alignment milestone

On March 11, the team at the Webb Space Observatory, the largest in history, completed the alignment step known as fine calibration. parameters optical telescope element (OTE), the ‘eye’ of Webb, meet and even exceed expectations.

The observatory is already able to successfully collect light from distant objects and send it to its instruments without any problems. Although it is months away from finally being able to offer its new view of the cosmos, a milestone has just been reached with its optical system.

“More than 20 years ago, Webb’s team set out to build the most powerful telescope ever launched into space and created a bold optical design to meet demanding scientific goals,” he says. Thomas Zurbuchendirector of the Scientific Missions Directorate of PAN“and today we can say that the design will work”.

Optical Telescope Element (OTE) parameters, the ‘eye’ of Webb, perform as expected and even exceed them

Although some of the largest ground-based telescopes on Earth use segmented primary mirrors, Webb is the first in space to use this design. The 6.5-meter primary mirror – too big to fit inside a rocket cover – is made up of 18 hexagonal beryllium mirror segments. It had to be folded for launch and then unfolded in space before each mirror was adjusted – at the nanometer scale – to form a single mirrored surface.

With the fine calibration stage in the telescope alignment completed, the team fully aligned Webb’s main imager, the near infrared camera (NIRcam), with the observatory’s mirrors.

“We have fully aligned the telescope and focused it on a star, and the performance is exceeding specifications. We’re excited about what this means for science.” Ritva Keski Kuhastaff member at NASA’s Goddard Center.

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The first images will arrive in the summer

Over the next six weeks, engineers will continue to align the telescope to include other instruments: the near infrared spectrograph, the mid-infrared instrumentthe near-infrared imager and the so-called slitless spectrograph.

At this stage of the process, an algorithm will evaluate the performance of each scientific instrument and then calculate the final corrections needed to align the telescope with all of them. Then start the final lineup of Webb, adjusting for any small residual positioning errors in the mirror segments.

Once fully operational, Webb will help solve the mysteries of our solar system and the origin of the universe.

The team expects to complete all aspects of aligning the optical telescope’s elements in early May, if not earlier, and then spend approximately two months preparing the science instruments. At first images Webb’s full resolution and scientific data will be published this summer.

Webb, an international program led by NASA with its partners at the European Space Agency (IT IS) and the Canadian Space Agencyit’s the leading space science observatory of the world. Once fully operational, it will help solve the mysteries of our solar system, look further into distant worlds around other stars, and explore the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.

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