NASA revealed a mosaic of the first photos obtained by the James Webb Space Telescope. Before JWST can achieve its purpose, the image depicts the early phases of the telescope’s 18 primary mirror segments properly aligning.
The image is a little blurred, but it’s an excellent starting point in the long process of fine-tuning JWST’s mirrors to snap ultra-sharp images of the distant Universe. The image’s 18 spots of light all show the same isolated star, known as HD 84406, as seen through a separate main mirror section. Light gathered from each main mirror segment was reflected in Webb’s secondary mirror and measured using the Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam, one of the telescope’s principal imaging sensors. This sensor will be utilized to detect and fix optical imperfections during the telescope’s alignment procedure.
According to NASA, the process of gathering the light utilized to make the visual mosaic took roughly 25 hours. The 18 photos of HD 84406 were assembled from almost 1,500 photographs acquired when Webb was directed to various places around the star’s estimated location. Following the several adjustments that the telescope will make over the next few months, the mirror will begin to align appropriately. When all mirror segments are aligned to form a smooth surface, those 18 stars will merge into one.
NASA anticipates that the first set of clear photos for scientific observation will be available this summer. But, for the time being, the JWST team is thrilled by the findings of the telescope’s initial imaging and alignment procedures, which put it one step closer to capturing spectacular photographs.
“Launching Webb to space was, of course, an exciting event, but for scientists and optical engineers, this is a pinnacle moment, when light from a star is successfully making its way through the system down onto a detector,” JWST project scientist Michael McElwain said.