The first clear photo of James Webb

It is the most powerful space telescope. The state-of-the-art observatory continues to amaze. The first sharp photo of the James Webb was recently released.

All optical parameters are working as well as possible. “It’s the most powerful telescope anyone has ever put in space,” said astrophysicist Thomas Zurbuchen. He is associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

The first sharp photo from the James Webb is impressive.
The first sharp photo of the James Webb is impressive.

Scientific enthusiasm

Webb focused on a single star, known as TYC 4212-1079-1. This bright object is located about 2,000 light-years away. It is just over 16 times brighter than the Sun: a good, clear target for Webb. A red filter was used to optimize visual contrast. The instruments are so sensitive that background stars and galaxies can also be seen.

“We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is exceeding specifications. We’re excited about what this means for science,” said Ritva Keski-Kuha, deputy director of optical telescope elements for Webb at NASA Goddard.

Webb is the first space telescope with a segmented mirror. It is made up of 18 independent hexagonal segments. In addition to perfect alignment, the mirrors have to be minimally separated by a few nanometers. Thus they form a homogeneous mirror surface. It is crucial that everything works perfectly.

Great advances are expected with this telescope.
Great advances are expected with this telescope.

More images

Webb is stationed in a gravitationally stable region of space. In this region is also the Gaia spacecraft of the European Space Agency (ESA). It is a project to map the Milky Way. Gaia managed to capture an image of the James Webb. At that time the two spacecraft were separated by one million kilometers. In Gaia’s image, Webb looks like just another star in a sea of stars.

The first sharp picture of the James Webb is just the beginning. Over the next six weeks, the James Webb alignment process will be completed. The first science observations from the telescope will arrive sometime in the northern hemisphere summer.

It will reveal many things we cannot currently see. It is expected to show us distant parts of the Universe, giving us more information about how stars and galaxies formed. And it will peer into the atmospheres of distant worlds, looking for signs of life.

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