NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Is in Position: What’s Next?

by Victoria Santiago
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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has completed its long journey. Now, the telescope will be aligned so it can start getting data. That process is expected to take months. After that, the fun stuff happens.

The James Webb Space Telescope equips a massive mirror. The mirror will be used to collect data, but first, it needs to be calibrated and moved into place. The 21.6-foot mirror is made up of 18 smaller hexagonal segments, which are covered in gold. The gold will help the telescope reflect infrared light. It’ll be a while before that happens, though. NASA says that it will probably take until the end of April 2022 for the telescope’s main mirror to set into place.

In essence, engineers will be taking 18 different images from the telescope and combining them into one big picture. “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. The mirrors need to be absolutely exact – they’re being moved mere millimeters and nanometers in order to get the best view. “It’s a very deliberate process that is time consuming,” Rigby added.

After the mirrors have been set into place, engineers will point the telescope at some bright stars so that it can focus. Then, they’ll begin to test the four instruments that the James Webb Space Telescope brought with it. We can expect to see images from the telescope about five months after launch, so May or thereabouts. “We want to make sure that the first images that the world sees do justice to this $10 billion telescope,” Rigby said.

The James Webb Space Telescope Was Years in the Making

It took 20 years and $10 billion to get the telescope successfully launched into space. It took 30 days for the telescope to travel through space to its destination. The James Webb Space Telescope traveled one million miles after launching from Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana. To successfully launch, it had to be remotely controlled by engineers. There were 50 moving parts and 178 release pins that had to be handled properly for launch.

TechRadar reports that the James Webb Space Telescope is unlike any other telescope out there. It’s really out of this world. For starters, it’s the most advanced space observatory that has ever been made. It’s at least 100 times stronger than the legendary Hubble telescope. Webb will allow scientists to look further back in time than ever before. That’s because it captures a different kind of light. To compare, the Hubble telescope captures visible and UV light. The Webb telescope will capture ancient, stretched infrared light. By doing this, the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to study some of the earliest-formed galaxies and stars.

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