Engineers claim to have completely focused the $10 billion observatories on a test star. The team released a new engineering image, showing the star 2MASS J17554042+6551277 in crisp clarity. They say that the razor-sharp performance is considerably better than expected. The clarity of James Webb’s initial photograph pushed the laws of physics.
All of Webb’s mirrors had to be aligned to fractions of a human hair’s width to reach this point. However, the organization warns that there is still a lot of work to be done before the telescope can be deemed operational.
Webb’s optical components were developed by Nasa engineer Lee Feinberg, who hailed the release of the first correctly focused image as “phenomenal.”
The Laws of Physics Will Never Allow You How The Universe Began
On December 25, an Ariane-5 rocket from French Guiana launched James Webb, the successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope. It was designed to go as far back in time as the laws of physics would allow.
Its main objectives are to photograph the very earliest stars to light in the Universe and to study distant planets to discover if they are livable.
A 6.5m-wide main mirror was installed on Webb to provide the resolution and sensitivity required for this mission. However, because this reflecting surface, which is made up of 18 segments, is so large, it had to be folded to fit within Ariane’s nosecone.
The obligation to unpack the mirror and other optics and have them all operating in harmony has therefore dominated the initial activities since launch. The telescope was launched into orbit by engineers utilizing the laws of physics.
Small motors have altered the direction and curvature of each of the 18 segments, allowing them to act as if they were a single, monolithic surface. The alignment work on Webb was done with a single instrument: the primary camera system known as NIRCam.
Engineers must now verify that this configuration works for the three additional instrument packages on Webb. This may necessitate some minor alterations to the current design, or possibly some compromises, but no big changes are planned.
The star in the test image provided on Wednesday isn’t anything exceptional; it’s just “a generic, nameless star” with the correct brightness level.