The four science instruments of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have achieved “perfect alignment” ahead of the telescope’s official debut this summer, project officials said during a press conference call Monday (May 9).
“I am delighted to report that the telescope alignment has been completed with even better performance than we anticipated,” said James Webb Space Telescope project scientist Michael McElwain at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, according to CBS News.
“We have essentially achieved perfect telescope alignment. There are no adjustments to the telescope optics that would provide material improvements to our science performance.”
To illustrate the telescope’s readiness, NASA shared a teaser image taken by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI. The new image shows a side-by-side comparison of observations of a nearby galaxy taken by Webb, compared to observations of the same galaxy taken previously by NASA’s now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope.
Above: The Large Magellanic Cloud, seen by Spitzer, left, and the JWST, right.
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While the Spitzer image shows a blur of about seven nearby stars located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (a satellite galaxy that orbits the Milky Way), the Webb image of the same region captures the foreground stars with crisp detail, offset by wispy clouds of interstellar gas and hundreds of background stars and galaxies, captured in what NASA calls “unprecedented detail.”
With its instruments lined up, the Webb Telescope is awaiting final instrument calibration before officially beginning to study distant stars later this summer, NASA said.
In July, the telescope will share its first suite of science images, targeting galaxies and objects that “highlight all Webb science themes…from the beginning of the Universe, to galaxies over time, to the life cycle stars and other worlds”. “, said Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, during the press conference.
NASA launched the US$10 billion Webb Telescope on December 25, 2021, sending the telescope on a journey of 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) to its final position in the sky. The telescope is made up of 18 hexagonal mirror segments, assembled into a large 21-foot-wide (6.4 m) mirror.
The design allowed the telescope’s mirror system to be folded inside a rocket at launch – unlike Webb’s predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, which has only one main mirror which is about 7 .8 feet (2.4 m) in diameter, Live Science previously reported.
Scientists predict Webb will be able to image distant objects up to 100 times too faint for the Hubble Space Telescope to see.
The telescope was designed to observe the faint light of the first stars in the Universe, dating from around 13.8 billion years ago, just millions of years after the Big Bang.
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This article was originally published by Live Science. Read the original article here.