HomeNewsNASA Gives Update on Progress of the James Webb Space Telescope with ‘Not Your Average Mirror Selfie’

NASA Gives Update on Progress of the James Webb Space Telescope with ‘Not Your Average Mirror Selfie’

by Victoria Santiago
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

NASA has shared an updated picture of the James Webb Space Telescope with us. They also gave us an update on the telescope’s position.

In the picture, shared on Instagram, we can see all of the space telescope’s hexagonal mirrors. In all, there are 18 mirrors on the telescope. Together, these smaller mirrors make up one big mirror, which measures 21.6 feet across. The mirrors are covered in gold, which helps them reflect infrared light. However, since the picture is in black and white, you can’t tell. The picture itself is a little blurry, but that’s because the James Webb Space Telescope is not fully set up yet. It will take months for the telescope to be completely ready.

“Not your average mirror selfie,” NASA captioned the picture. “The James Webb Space Telescope is almost done with the first phase of the months-long process of aligning its primary mirror segments! For this procedure, we used a special imaging lens inside of the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument, designed expressly to take pictures of @NASAWebb’s mirrors, not of space.”

NASA went on to say that the mirrors are only set up like in the picture so they can get correctly aligned. For the purpose of this James Webb Space Telescope “selfie,” they pointed it at a bright star. That’s why one of the mirror segments is lighter than the others. It’s currently the only mirror properly configured to reflect light from that star. To us, this “selfie” might look to be just that. But for NASA scientists, it’s an important marker for how the mirror and camera configuration is going.

What Does the James Webb Space Telescope See?

Well, in this Instagram picture, the telescope is seeing 18 dots of light from that super bright star it’s pointed at. Eventually, it’ll be focused enough to where those 18 different images will make up one big picture. Then, we’ll be getting clearer pictures from the NASA telescope. The space agency included a slide of what those 18 dots look like. There’s not much we can make out from that slide, though.

“This telescope is not ready out of the box and the first images are going to be ugly – it’s going to be blurry,” said Jane Rigby, a Webb Operations Project Scientist. All things considered, we think the telescope’s selfie isn’t ugly at all. However, the second picture of the starlight dots could definitely use some work. It’ll be a while before we get to see some real space images from the telescope. According to NASA, it will probably be the end of May before they get the James Webb Space Telescope fully calibrated and in position.