Incredible image makes us eager to see what the James Webb Space Telescope can do

(ORDO NEWS) — All four of NASA‘s James Webb Space Telescope science instruments have achieved “perfect alignment” ahead of the telescope’s official debut this summer, the project said in a Monday (May 9) teleconference.

“I am pleased to report that the alignment of the telescope has been completed and the results are even better than we expected,” Michael McElwain, James Webb Space Telescope Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, told CBS News.

“We have almost reached perfect alignment of the telescope. There are no adjustments to the telescope’s optics that could significantly improve our scientific performance.”

To illustrate the readiness of the telescope, NASA shared a teaser image taken by the Webb Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI. The new image shows a side-by-side comparison of Webb’s observations of a nearby galaxy with observations of the same galaxy made earlier by NASA’s now retired Spitzer Space Telescope.

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The Large Magellanic Cloud as seen by Spitzer (left) and JWST (right)

While the Spitzer image shows a blur of seven or so nearby stars located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (a satellite galaxy orbiting the Milky Way), the Webb image of the same region captures foreground stars in sharp detail against the background clouds of interstellar gas and hundreds of background stars and galaxies, captured in NASA’s words in “unprecedented detail.”

The Webb Telescope is awaiting final calibration of its instruments before it officially begins studying distant stars this summer, NASA officials said.

In July, the telescope will unveil its first set of science images aimed at galaxies and objects that “highlight all of Webb’s science topics… from the early universe, galaxies over time, the life cycle of stars and other worlds,” Klaus said at the briefing. Pontoppidan, Webb Project Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

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NASA launched the $10 billion Webb Telescope on December 25, 2021, sending it on a 930,000-mile (1.5 million km) journey to its final position in the sky. The telescope consists of 18 hexagonal mirror segments combined into one large mirror 21 feet (6.4 m) wide.

This design allowed the telescope’s mirror system to be folded inside the rocket at launch – unlike Webb’s predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, which has only one main mirror about 7.8 feet (2.4 m) across, Live Science previously reported.

Scientists predict that Webb will be able to image distant objects that are 100 times dimmer than the Hubble Space Telescope.

The telescope was designed to look at the dim light of the earliest stars in the universe, which formed about 13.8 billion years ago – just millions of years after the Big Bang.

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