The four science instruments on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope achieved “perfect alignment” ahead of the telescope’s official debut this summer, project officials said in a news teleconference on Monday (May 9).
“I am delighted to report that the telescope alignment was completed with even better performance than we had anticipated,” said Michael McElwain, project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, according to CBSNews.
“Basically we achieve perfect alignment of the telescope. There are no adjustments to the telescope’s optics that will materially improve 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, versus observations of the same galaxy taken earlier by NASA’s now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope.
Above: The Large Magellanic Cloud, as seen by Spitzer, on the left, and JWST, on the right.
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While Spitzer’s image shows a blur of seven or more nearby stars located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (a satellite galaxy orbiting the Milky Way), Webb’s image of the same region captures the foreground stars in great detail. , offset by faint 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 awaits a final calibration of the instrument before it officially begins studying distant stars later this summer, NASA said.
In July, the telescope will share its first set of science images, targeting galaxies and objects that “highlight all of Webb’s science topics… from the early Universe, galaxies through time, the life cycle of stars and other worlds. ”, said Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, at the press conference.
NASA launched the $10 billion Webb Telescope on December 25, 2021, sending the telescope on a 930,000-mile (1.5 million-kilometer) journey to its final position in the sky. The telescope is made up of 18 segments of hexagonal mirrors, linked into one 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 measuring about 7.8 feet (2. 4 m) wide, Live Science previously reported.
Scientists predict that Webb will be able to image distant objects up to 100 times fainter than the Hubble Space Telescope.
The telescope was designed to observe the faint light from the earliest stars in the Universe, which date to about 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.