That's history in the making.
The solar system is ready for its close up… and the James Webb Space Telescope is ready to deliver.
A new NASA news update published Friday included 18 separate images of the same star captured by the Webb and its 18 mirror segments. The shots are unfocused but brought the copies into a planned hexagonal formation that will assist in focusing the images further.
He(X)agon marks the spots 🏴☠️
Last week, 18 spots helped confirm that each of Webb's mirror segments can see starlight. Now we've arranged those dots into our primary mirror shape, completing the first of Webb's mirror alignment phases: https://t.co/T3pf68Cfvj #UnfoldTheUniverse pic.twitter.com/dYzPqg0EJv
— NASA Webb Telescope (@NASAWebb) February 18, 2022
A tweet from NASA’s official James Webb Twitter account confirmed the mission was a success.
“Last week, 18 spots helped confirm that each of Webb’s mirror segments can see starlight,” the tweet read, and included an image of the hexagonal arrangement.
With the image array complete, the team has now begun the second phase called “Segment Alignment” according to NASA’s post about the telescope.
“We steer the segment dots into this array so that they have the same relative locations as the physical mirrors,” Matthew Lallo, systems scientist and Telescopes Branch manager at the Space Telescope Science Institute said in the update. “This familiar arrangement gives the wavefront team an intuitive and natural way of visualizing changes. We can now actually watch the primary mirror slowly form into its precise, intended shape!”
In the Making
Only one day before the images were released, NASA’s team pointed a fine sensor at the star and readied it for photographing, according to a previous news update on the organization’s website. It was also just in early February that the first photons were captured by the telescope’s mirrors.
It’s fascinating to see just how hot and fast the Webb is sending information back to Earth from deep space. The pictures now aren’t super impressive, but the telescope is set to be operational for scientific observation by this summer. The latest news is yet another reminder that here on Earth we’re getting to witness space exploration and history in real time — so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for as many updates as NASA wants to give!
More on the Webb’s history-making: The James Webb Space Telescope Just Locked Onto Its First Star