James Webb Space Telescope

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Its size and high infrared resolution and sensitivity allow it to view objects too early, distant, or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope. This is expected to enable a broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology, such as observation of the first stars and the formation of the first galaxies, and detailed atmospheric characterization of potentially habitable exoplanets. (Wikipedia)

Images: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope

Commissioning and Testing

by Wikipedia

On 12 January 2022, while still in transit, mirror alignment began. The primary mirror segments and secondary mirror were moved away from their protective launch positions. This took about 10 days, because the 132 actuator motors are designed to fine-tune the mirror positions at microscopic accuracy (10 nanometer increments) and must each move over 1.2 million increments (12.5 mm) during initial alignment.

Mirror alignment requires each of the 18 mirror segments, and the secondary mirror, to be positioned to within 50 nanometers. NASA compares the required accuracy by analogy: "If the Webb primary mirror were the size of the United States, each [mirror] segment would be the size of Texas, and the team would need to line the height of those Texas-sized segments up with each other to an accuracy of about 1.5 inches".


How Mirror Alignment Worked

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Segment image identification. 18 mirror segments are moved to determine which segment creates which segment image. After matching the mirror segments to their respective images, the mirrors are tilted to bring all the images near a common point for further analysis.

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Segment alignment begins by defocusing the segment images by moving the secondary mirror slightly. Mathematical analysis, called phase retrieval, is applied to the defocused images to determine the precise positioning errors of the segments. Adjustments of the segments then result in 18 well-corrected "telescopes". However, the segments still do not work together as a single mirror.

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Image stacking. To put all of the light in a single place, each segment image must be stacked on top of one another. In the image stacking step, the individual segment images are moved so that they fall precisely at the center of the field to produce one unified image. This process prepares the telescope for coarse phasing.

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Telescope alignment over instrument fields of view. After fine phasing, the telescope will be well aligned at one place in the NIRCam field of view. Now the alignment must be extended to the rest of the instruments.


I fell in love with science fiction at the same time that my dad started encouraging me to have an interest in astronomy.

Knicole Colon

Astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center


Webb Telescope Data, Translated to Sound — Southern Ring Nebula

Experience the first full-color images and data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in a brand new way. In this video, each of Webb's two views of the Southern Ring Nebula — in near-infrared light (at left) and mid-infrared light (at right) — has been adapted to sound.