Boom! NASA's Webb Telescope hits its sixth major milestone in space - Bark Sedov

Boom! NASA’s Webb Telescope hits its sixth major milestone in space

the James Webb The space telescope – once the bête noire of space science – continues to dazzle now that it’s happily settled in space. On Friday, April 1, NASA announced that the telescope has completed the sixth phase of its seven-step setup process ahead of schedule. The Webb Telescope is scheduled to come online in the summer of 2022, when it will begin observing the universe near and far. The Webb Telescope has the potential to unravel the mysteries of dark matter, search for signs of life in the atmospheres of exoplanets and find the first stars in the universe.

What’s new – On Friday, NASA announced in a post on the Webb Telescope blog that the operations team here on Earth is completing the sixth phase of the Webb commissioning process. Now they’re ready to move on to the seventh and final step of preparing the telescope for science – once the instruments have cooled to their operating temperature.

Webb’s NIRCam instrument captured this cheeky selfie during the alignment process.NASA

The announcement puts Webb slightly ahead of schedule — Chanda Walker, a Ball Aerospace scientist and a member of Webb’s team, says in a statement the efficiency came as a pleasant surprise.

“As a rule, the commissioning process starts with rough corrections and then moves on to fine corrections. However, the early coarse corrections to the secondary mirror were so successful that the fine corrections in the first iteration of Phase Six were unnecessary,” says Walker.

“This achievement was the result of years of planning and great teamwork by the wavefront sensor team,” she adds.

Why it matters – To get to this moment, the Webb telescope team went through a painstaking week-long process of slowly adjusting the 18 gold and beryllium segments of the telescope’s primary mirror to bring them into alignment (focus) across several different instruments on Webb. bring to. These are:

This process went so well — for both the primary and secondary mirrors — that some adjustments the team initially planned simply weren’t necessary in the end, according to NASA.

On Twitter is the The NASA Webb team writes: “Previous alignment efforts have been so accurate that the team has concluded that no additional adjustments to Webb’s secondary mirrors are required until phase seven.”

Nice, for a technical picture.NASA

So what are we waiting for now? That would be the mid-infrared instrument, or MIRI, the last instrument to align. MIRI must be cooled to minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Kelvin) for normal operation. This process will take weeks, even in the cold darkness of space.

What’s next for Webb – Once MIRI has cooled, the telescope will enter the seventh phase of commissioning. This is the final milestone before the instruments come fully online and we begin using the Webb to create some of the most accurate and sharpest images of the universe ever.

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on December 25, 2021. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and other international space science institutions. The Webb was designed to view the Universe in infrared wavelengths of light, meaning it can efficiently see very far into the distant Universe compared to a telescope that operates in the visible light spectrum, such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

For now, Webb is still on track to come online in the summer of 2022, when NASA claims we’ll get the first scientific observations from the Webb. Judging by the technical images released so far, including this stunning constellation with a bit of galaxy glitter thrown in for spice, these should be good.

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