The James Webb space telescope, launched into orbit at the end of December 2021, is going through some mirror alignment steps. A test image was taken, and it shows the astounding potential of the telescope in space imaging. Take a look:
Not only does the focal point star stand out conspicuously, you can see other stars and galaxies(!) in the background.
The significance of James Webb summarized in NASA’s press release for the alignment test:
“While some of the largest ground-based telescopes on Earth use segmented primary mirrors, Webb is the first telescope in space to use such a design. The 21-foot, 4-inch (6.5-meter) primary mirror – much too big to fit inside a rocket fairing – is made up of 18 hexagonal, beryllium mirror segments. It had to be folded up for launch and then unfolded in space before each mirror was adjusted – to within nanometers – to form a single mirror surface. […]
“Webb is the world’s premier space science observatory and once fully operational, will help solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.”
I don’t need to be a STEM person to be delighted at the progress!
Image by NASA/STScI