The alignment of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is now complete. The observatory is capable of capturing sharp, well-focused images with each of its four powerful onboard scientific instruments. After completing the seventh and final phase of the telescope alignment, the team held a series of key decision-making meetings and unanimously agreed that Webb is ready to proceed on his next and final round of preparations for commissioning the telescope. scientific instruments. This process will take about two months before scientific operations begin in the summer.
The extraordinary test images of the aligned telescope demonstrate the success of this scientific instrument that is as daring as it is ambitious. The telescope’s optical performance continues to be better than the most optimistic forecasts. Webb’s mirrors are now directing light, fully focused, into each instrument. The image quality provided to all instruments is “limited to diffraction”, which means that the fineness of detail is the best physically possible given the size of the telescope. From now on the only changes to the mirrors will be very small periodic adjustments to the primary segments of the mirror.
“With the completion of the telescope alignment, my role in the James Webb Space Telescope mission has come to an end,” said Scott Acton, Webb scientist. “These images have profoundly changed the way I see the universe. We are surrounded by a symphony of creation; there are galaxies everywhere. My hope is that everyone in the world can see them ”.
Now, the Webb team will turn its attention to putting scientific instruments into service. Each instrument is a highly sophisticated set of detectors equipped with custom lenses, masks, filters and equipment. The characteristics of these highly specialized instruments will be configured and managed in various combinations, during the commissioning phase, to verify their perfect functioning. With the formal telescope alignment concluded, key personnel involved in commissioning each instrument arrived at the Mission Operations Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and some of the staff involved in telescope alignment concluded the their duties.
Although the telescope alignment is complete, some telescope calibration tasks remain. As part of the commissioning, the telescope will be aimed at different areas of the sky where the total amount of radiation hitting the observatory will be different, in order to confirm the thermal stability of the telescope and its parts by changing targets. In addition, the alignment of the mirror will be monitored every two days and corrections will be applied if necessary to keep the mirrors in their correct positions.