May 21, 2022

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Webb Telescope highlights star as it completes 'image stacking' alignment phase

Webb Telescope highlights star as it completes ‘image stacking’ alignment phase

The bright light in the center of this black image is the star Webb uses to align its mirrors.

Webb has a telescope It has completed the third stage of aligning its mirrors, a crucial process for obtaining the latest images from this $10 billion space telescope. This feat comes just in time as the telescope heads into the second month of its three-month alignment period.

Since Webb arrived at the observation point in space, a place called L2, members of the NASA team have worked hard to get the telescope ready for science to begin. This process means using one star, HD 84406, as a guide to align the 18 primary mirrors.

Engineers have introduced 18 points of starlight into a cohesive pattern.

Engineers have introduced 18 points of starlight into a cohesive pattern.
picture: NASA/STScI/J. Dipascual

telescope Publish her full mirrors in late January, He saw his first light On February 4th until pick up a kind of Photograph On February 11, the ultimate goal is to make the mirrors identical to each other by about 50 nanometers, or 50 billionths of a meter. As Alize Fisher put it on file Recent NASA Blog“If the basic Webb mirror was the size of a US, then each part would be the size of Texas, and the team would need to align the heights of those Texas-sized parts with each other to an accuracy of about 1.5 inches.” TRefers to the orientations of mirrors made by humans here on Earth, a A million miles from the telescope.

On February 18, the mirrors lined up enough to organize 18 points of light Captured by each of the 18 primary mirrors. The next step was to focus those 18 views of the same star into a single point—literally by stacking the images on top of each other. This is done now, since the file The image stack alignment phase was completed on February 25, three days ahead of schedule. HD 84406 as seen by Webb is now a single point From the light, as it should be.

Lee Feinberg, director of the Webb Optical Telescope Element at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. Agency release. “Years of planning and testing are paying off, and the team couldn’t have been more excited to see what the next few weeks and months will bring.”

Artist's depiction of the Webb telescope in the center, directed toward the lower left corner of the image.

Mirrors still function as a single instrument, although they need to be rather than one large telescope. Accurate combinations are essential. The fourth stage of mirror alignment, called coarse gradient, will now begin. This process involves pairing 20 different mirror pieces to cast light together; The team can use these results to discover where differences in clip heights reduce image sharpness.

The rough stages will be implemented in the next several weeks, after which they will come fine stages and align the telescope across the rest of Webb’s instruments (at the moment the team is only working on tweaking the primary mirror) and also the last, Final corrections. more dThe details of the alignment stages can be read about it here.

Webb will expand our knowledge oThe early universe, galaxies, and exoplanets, as well Some objects within our solar system. The The telescope does not replace the veteran Hubble Space Telescope. It will detect infrared and near infrared radiation, while Hubble works primarily in ultraviolet and visible light.

But Hubble was launched again in 1990. Webb will look at the universe along with his predecessor, but We will be looking back in time more than any device before it, with technology that was not possible 30 years ago.

Webb is still perfectly compatible and a bit scientifically feasible – estimating the ballpark is the middle of summer 2022 – but the fact that nothing has gone wrong so far is a testament to the hours and efforts of scientists and engineers eager to give the world a whole new look at the ancient universe.

MORE: The Webb Space Telescope takes a selfie while aligning its golden mirrors

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