James Webb's focus improves and the images get better as the mirror alignment process continues. Credit: NASA/STScl

NASA’s James Webb Telescope Focused and Delivered Images Above Expectations

The James Webb Space Infrared Telescope team announced the successful completion of the fifth stage of the optical system alignment, during which they fine-tuned the position of the mirror segments, as well as the NIRCam infrared instrument. At the same time, scientists have published new images of a test star for observation, as well as a selfie of the main mirror of the James Webb telescope.

James Webb revealed brand new focused images

At present, the observatory is adjusting the optical system, which is carried out in seven stages and will take three months. The bright sun-like star HD 84406, located 260 light-years from the Sun, serves as a test target for observations. The telescope has already made a series of rough adjustments to the position of the primary and secondary mirror segments, thanks to which 18 randomly arranged out-of-focus images of the star turned into one.

On March 11, 2022, the fifth stage of the optical system alignment was completed. At this stage, the alignment errors of the main mirror segments that occurred during the stage of coarse correction of their vertical displacement are determined and corrected three times.

In addition, the main adjustment of the NIRCam infrared instrument was completed, which received a new selfie of the main mirror of the observatory. The engineers concluded that there were no critical problems with the mirror segments, as well as noticeable contamination or blockages in the optical path of the observatory.

A 'selfie' of the mirrors of James Webb. Credit: NASA
A ‘selfie’ of the mirrors of James Webb. Credit: NASA

Thus, it can successfully collect light from distant objects and direct it to its devices, as evidence, scientists have published a new James Webb test image of the star HD 84406 obtained by the NIRCam instrument, where distant galaxies are visible in the background.

Over the next six weeks, the final two phases of alignment will be completed. During these, the optical system will be adjusted for each of the scientific instruments, and any small residual errors in the positioning of the mirror segments will be corrected. Only after this, the adjustment of the optical system for all instruments will be considered complete, this will happen no earlier than the beginning of May.

Gaia captured an image of the telescope

The Gaia space observatory photographed the James Webb space telescope, which at the time of the shooting was at a distance of about one million kilometers from it.

Orbits of the Gaia (dim line) and James Webb (bright line) telescopes around the L2 point. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC
Orbits of the Gaia (dim line) and James Webb (bright line) telescopes around the L2 point. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC

A few weeks before James Webb’s arrival in the vicinity of the L2 point, members of the Gaia telescope team determined that the new telescope would be in the field of view of the Gaia sky cartographer, which scans a narrow 360-degree strip of the celestial sphere every six hours, resulting in a complete view of the sky every few months.

On February 18, 2022, Gaia scanned the part of the sky where the James Webb was supposed to be and made some images. A few days later, scientists, having studied the obtained images, found a bright point on them – this is the new space observatory.

James Webb was captured by the Gaia observatory. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC
James Webb was captured by the Gaia observatory. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC

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Bartels, M. (2022, March 16). New James Webb Space Telescope Photo showcases single star in key mission milestone. Space.com.
ESA. (n.d.). Gaia snaps photo of Webb at L2.
Hicks, J. (2022, March 16). James Webb space telescope’s latest selfie marks a milestone for the space observatory. The Verge.
Potter, S. (2022, March 16). NASA’s Webb reaches alignment milestone, optics working successfully. NASA.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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