(ORDO NEWS) — Alignment of the NASA James Webb Space Telescope completed. After a thorough review, it was confirmed that the observatory is capable of capturing crisp, well-focused images with each of the four powerful onboard scientific instruments.
Following the completion of the seventh and final stage of telescope alignment, the team held a series of key decision meetings and unanimously agreed that Webb was ready for the next and final series of preparatory work, known as scientific instrument commissioning. This process will take about two months before scientific operations begin in the summer.
The alignment of the telescope with all of the Webb instruments can be seen in a series of images that capture the entire field of view of the observatory.
“These remarkable test images from a successfully aligned telescope demonstrate what people across countries and continents can achieve with a bold scientific vision to explore the universe,” said Lee Feinberg, Optical Elements Manager for the Webb Telescope at the Space Flight Center. named after NASA Goddard.
The optical performance of the telescope continues to exceed the most optimistic predictions of the engineering team. Webb mirrors now direct fully focused light collected from space to each instrument, and each instrument is successfully imaged by the light transmitted to it.
The image quality of all instruments is “diffraction limited”, which means that the fineness of the details that can be seen is as fine as is physically possible given the size of the telescope. From this point on, the only changes in the mirrors will be very small periodic adjustments to the segments of the primary mirror.
“With the completion of telescope alignment and half a lifetime of effort, my role on the James Webb Space Telescope mission has come to an end,” said Scott Acton, Wavefront and Webb Telescope Control Scientist at Ball Aerospace.
“These images have profoundly changed my understanding of the universe. We are surrounded by a symphony of creation; galaxies are everywhere! I hope that everyone in the world will be able to see them.”
Now the Webb team will turn its attention to the commissioning of scientific instruments. Each instrument is a highly sophisticated array of detectors, equipped with unique lenses, masks, filters and specialized equipment to help it perform the scientific tasks it was designed for.
The specialized features of these instruments will be tuned and operated in various combinations during the commissioning phase of the instruments to fully validate their scientific readiness.
Following the official completion of the telescope alignment, key personnel involved in the commissioning of each instrument arrived at Mission Control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and some personnel involved in telescope alignment completed their duties.
Although the telescope alignment is complete, some telescope calibration activities remain: As part of the commissioning of the scientific instrument, the telescope will be commanded to point at different parts of the sky where the total amount of solar radiation hitting the observatory will change to confirm thermal stability as targets change.
In addition, ongoing operational observations will monitor mirror alignment every two days and apply corrections as necessary to maintain mirror alignment.
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