NASA has begun a four-month operation for the James Webb Space Telescope so it can begin taking pictures of the universe by May, and the mission is set to be completed in time for the $10 billion observatory to begin looking at the universe by early summer.
Last week, NASA said that the James Webb Space Telescope, which launched from the Guyana Space Center on Christmas Day, fully deployed its 21-foot gold-plated primary mirror, after deploying a sun shield and secondary mirror. smaller.
Deploying the primary mirror is the final stage for all major spacecraft deployments to prepare for science operations, but now NASA engineers need to tune their individual optics into one huge, precise telescope.
Also, once that’s done, James Webb is expected to take his first science images in May, which will then be processed over the course of about a month before being released to the public in June.
The telescope is currently on its way to Lagrangian Point II (L2), a region of gravitational equilibrium between the Sun and Earth, where it will spend more than a decade exploring the universe in infrared light.
Mission control engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, begin sending their initial commands to tiny actuators called actuators that slowly position and adjust the telescope’s main mirror.
These actuators are also designed to move incrementally at temperatures as low as -400 degrees Fahrenheit (-240 degrees Celsius) in the vacuum of space.
The James Webb Basic Mirror consists of 18 hexagonal pieces of gold-plated beryllium metal and measures 21 feet 4 inches (6.5 meters) in diameter. Structural over a two-week period after Webb’s December 25 launch.
These sections must now be separated from the fasteners that hold them in place for release and then move forward half an inch from their original formation, a process that takes 10 days before they are aligned to form a single uninterrupted light-gathering surface.
Lee Feinberg, director of the Webb Optical Telescope Element at Goddard, told Reuters the alignment would take an additional three months.
Aligning the primary mirror segments to form one large mirror, Feinberg said, means that each segment is in line with one-fifth of the thickness of a human hair.
The telescope’s small secondary mirror, which is designed to direct the light collected from the primary lens to a webcam and other instruments, must also be aligned to function as part of a coherent optical system.
If all goes as planned, the telescope should be ready to take its first science images in May, which will be processed over about another month before being released to the public in June.
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