NASA Web fully focused and ready to power devices
The alignment of the telescope across all of Webb’s instruments can be seen in a series of images that captures the observatory’s full field of view.
“These remarkable test images from a successfully aligned telescope demonstrate what people across countries and continents can achieve when there is a bold scientific vision to explore the universe,” said Lee Feinberg, Webb optical telescope element manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The Webb Telescope completes the alignment phase. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
The telescope’s optical performance is still better than the engineering team’s most optimistic predictions. Webb’s mirrors now direct the fully focused light collected from space into each instrument, and each instrument successfully captures images with its supplied light. The image quality provided for all instruments is ‘limited diffraction’, which means that the resolution of the detail that can be seen is as good as physically possible given the size of the telescope. From this point on, the only changes to the mirrors will be very small periodic adjustments to the primary mirror sections.
“With the telescope alignment and half-life efforts, my role on the James Webb Space Telescope mission is over,” said Scott Acton, Ball Aerospace Wavefront Detection and Control Scientist. “These images have profoundly changed the way I see the universe. We are surrounded by a symphony of creation. There are galaxies everywhere! I hope everyone in the world can see them.”
Now, Webb’s team will turn its attention to commissioning the scientific instrumentation. Each device is a highly advanced set of detectors equipped with lenses, masks, filters and customized equipment that helps them do the science they are designed for. The specialized properties of these tools will be configured and run in different combinations during the tool run phase to fully confirm their readiness for science. With the formal completion of the telescope alignment, key personnel involved in operating each instrument have arrived at the mission operations center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and some personnel involved in telescope alignment have finished their duties.
Although the telescope alignment is complete, some telescope calibration activities remain: As part of the flag instrument operation, the telescope will be directed to point to different regions of the sky where the total amount of solar radiation arriving at the observatory varies to confirm thermal stability at the changing target. In addition, continuous maintenance observations every two days will monitor mirror alignment and, when necessary, apply corrections to keep mirrors in their aligned positions.