• Home
  • Science
  • Science News
  • James Webb Space Telescope: NASA Begins Months Long Process of Bringing Space Observatory Into Focus

James Webb Space Telescope: NASA Begins Months-Long Process of Bringing Space Observatory Into Focus

James Webb Space Telescope should be ready to capture its first science images in May.

James Webb Space Telescope: NASA Begins Months-Long Process of Bringing Space Observatory Into Focus

The 18 segments of the James Webb Space Telescope were unfurled with rest of its structural components

Highlights
  • James Webb Space Telescope is about 100 times more powerful than Hubble
  • The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA
  • The telescope should be ready to capture its first science images in May

NASA on Wednesday embarked on a months-long, painstaking process of bringing its newly launched James Webb Space Telescope into focus, a task due for completion in time for the revolutionary eye in the sky to begin peering into the cosmos by early summer.

Mission control engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, began by sending their initial commands to tiny motors called actuators that slowly position and fine-tune the telescope's principal mirror.

Consisting of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-plated beryllium metal, the primary mirror measures 21 feet 4 inches (6.5m) in diameter - a much larger light-collecting surface than Webb's predecessor, the 30-year-old Hubble Space Telescope.

The 18 segments, which had been folded together to fit inside the cargo bay of the rocket that carried the telescope to space, were unfurled with the rest of its structural components during a two-week period following Webb's launch on December 25.

Those segments must now be detached from fasteners that held them in place for the launch and then moved forward half an inch from their original configuration - a 10-day process - before they can be aligned to form a single, unbroken, light-collecting surface.

The alignment will take an additional three months, Lee Feinberg, the Webb optical telescope element manager at Goddard, told Reuters by telephone.

Aligning the primary mirror segments to form one large mirror means each segment "is aligned to one-five-thousandth the thickness of a human hair", Feinberg said.

"All of this required us to invent things that had never been done before," such as the actuators, which were built to move incrementally at -400 Fahrenheit (-240 Celsius) in the vacuum of space, he added.

The telescope's smaller, secondary mirror, designed to direct light collected from the primary lens into Webb's camera and other instruments, must also be aligned to operate as part of a cohesive optical system.

If all goes as planned, the telescope should be ready to capture its first science images in May, which would be processed over about another month before they can be released to the public, Feinberg said.

The $9-billion (roughly Rs. 66,540 crore) telescope, described by NASA as the premier space-science observatory of the next decade, will mainly view the cosmos in the infrared spectrum, allowing it to gaze through clouds of gas and dust where stars are being born. Hubble has operated primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.

Webb is about 100 times more powerful than Hubble, enabling it to observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back in time, than Hubble or any other telescope.

Astronomers say this will bring into view a glimpse of the cosmos never previously seen - dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set in motion the expansion of the observable universe an estimated 13.8 billion years ago.

The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies. Northrop Grumman Corp was the primary contractor.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


Xiaomi India speaks exclusively to Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, on their plans for 2022 and pushing for 120W fast charging with the 11i HyperCharge. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
Comments

For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Further reading: NASA, James Webb Space Telescope
iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max Pill-Shaped Hole-Punch Cutout Tipped Again, This Time With 2 Holes
Realme 9i India Launch Date Confirmed for January 18; Price Leaks Online
Share on Facebook Tweet Snapchat Share Reddit Comment
 
 

Advertisement

Advertisement

© Copyright Red Pixels Ventures Limited 2022. All rights reserved.