James Webb Telescope Reaches Another Milestone as NASA Announces Its Mirror is Fully Aligned
"More than 20 years ago, the Webb team set out to build the most powerful telescope that anyone has ever put in space and came up with an audacious optical design to meet demanding science goals. Today we can say that design is going to deliver," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
It is made of 18 hexagonal, beryllium segments, aka mini-mirrors. Aside from having difficulties when unfolding this behemoth remotely in extreme conditions, NASA scientists also had to perform the daunting task of aligning all 18 segments so that they could form a single mirror.
The device is vital to the work of the telescope, which attempts to "travel back in time" by observing the first stars and young galaxies. It takes billions of years for light from these distant stars to reach the Earth, so by seeing this light, the telescope will be able to observe the stars as they were when the Solar System formed.
NASA said its researchers are now proceeding through the "remaining alignment steps" before testing instruments installed on the telescope. This includes the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, Mid-Infrared Instrument, and Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph.