Wed. May 18th, 2022

The artistic concept of the James Webb Space Telescope.

The artistic concept of the James Webb Space Telescope.
Pictures: Northrop Grumman

Deployment has achieved a great milestone James Webb Space Telescope, An onboard instrument detects its first photons from distant stars. This means that engineers can now begin the three-month process of aligning 18 mirrors in the space telescope.

Later Years Of Delays and a seemingly Endless Inheritance Of Hiccups During development, the $ 10 billion web mission – now in its seventh week – has become as smooth as silk. Laborious process Revelation The space telescope and its preparation for groundbreaking astronomical performance have made nearly as much progress as one might expect, the most recent achievement being the telescope’s first star light detection, which took place earlier this week.

Showing images of 18 segments from a single source of light is a simulated example.

Showing images of 18 segments from a single source of light is a simulated example.
Pictures: NASA

“This milestone marks the first of many steps to capture unpublished images early on and to use the telescope to gradually fine-tune,” NASA said in a statement. Statement Achievement announcement on Thursday. “This is just the beginning of the process, but preliminary results still match expectations and simulations.”

This inaugural batch of photons was detected by the web Near the infrared camera (NIRCam) instrument. The photons came from HD 84406, a star about 260 light-years away and visible in the constellation Ursa Major. With the detection of these star lights, the team can now begin the three-month process of locating all 18 panels so that they can create a single concave mirror.

Launched On December 25, 2021, the Web Space Telescope is a collaboration between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. Once launched, the web will first look for light from stars and galaxies, study the structure and evolution of galaxies, and scan the atmosphere of distant exoplanets, among other astronomical and astronomical targets.

The web Arrived Its stable orbital spot, at Lagrange Point 2, January 24, 2022. Since then, engineers have finished supplying power to its science instruments and shutting down its heaters, which is why they started the long-term cooling process. Heaters were needed to keep the web’s optics warm and to prevent water condensation When the ice machine reaches -244 degrees Fahrenheit (-153 degrees Celsius), the alignment process is able to begin, According to NASA.

The alignment process will involve seven different steps, such as segment image identification, segment alignment and image stacking. Full details of these steps can be found here Here. But as NASA explains, this work will require extraordinary precision:

To work together as a single mirror, the 18 primary mirror parts of a telescope must meet each other with a fraction of the light wavelength – about 50 nanometers. To put it this way, if the web primary mirror is the size of the United States, each segment would be the size of Texas, and the team would have to line up the height of those Texas-sized parts with each other for precision. About 1.5 inches.

Engineers will use the data collected by NIRCam to slowly align the telescope. Since the large mirror is not yet aligned, the incoming photons produce an image showing 18 faint points of light. The team will train the web in HD 84406 and work towards creating a single focused image of the stars. NASA warns that the images collected during this three-month process will be of a strictly useful nature and not “beautiful” and a pale comparison with what we can expect this coming summer.

The completion of this process will see a fully aligned telescope and the beginning of the next stage: instrument commissioning. The fingers are crossed that these next important steps will go according to plan and we will see spectacular results in early June.

More: NASA detailed plan ISS will retire in 2030 and deliberately destroy the Pacific Ocean.

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