The last time Many Worlds wrote about the James Webb Space Telescope, it was in the process of going through a high-stakes, super-complicated unfurling. About 50 autonomous deployments needed to occur after launch to set up the huge system, with 344 potential single point failures to overcome–individual steps that had to work for the mission to be a success.
That process finished a while back and now the pioneering observatory is going through a series of alignment and calibration tests, working with the images coming in from the 18 telescope segments to produce one singular image.
According to the Space Telescope Science Institute, working images from JWST will start to appear in late June, though there may be some integrated “first light” images slightly earlier.
Exciting times for sure as the observatory begins its study of the earliest times in the universe, how the first stars and galaxies formed, and providing a whole new level of precision exploration of exoplanets.
Adding to the very good news that the JWST successfully performed all the 344 necessary steps to unfurl and that the mirror calibration is now going well is this: The launch itself went off almost exactly according to plan. This means that the observatory now has much more fuel on hand than it would have had if the launch was problematic. That extra fuel means a longer life for the observatory.
Before launch, the telescope was expected to last for five years. Now NASA has said fuel is available for a ten year mission and perhaps longer. Quite a start.
(A NASA update on alignment and calibration will be given on Wednesday. … Read more