Webb Space Telescope passes ‘fine phasing’ milestone with another selfie

NASA has released new images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) that confirms that Webb’s optical performance will be able to meet or exceed the science goals of the project. The images include a ‘selfie’ clicked by the telescope, which shows the progress of mirror alignment.

“We got together and looked at the very first diffraction-emitted images that came out of the Webb Telescope and what we collective saw as a group is we have the highest resolution infrared images taken from space ever,” said scientist Scott Acton in a video released by NASA.

Webb scientists completed a stage of mirror alignment known as ‘fine phasing’ on March 11. At the stage of fine phasing, each of the primary mirror segments was adjusted to produce one unified image of a single bright star using only the NIRCam instrument. The NIRCam or Near-Infrared Camera is JWST’s primary imager.

The team found that all optical parameters have been checked and tested and that they are performing at or above expectations. They also found no critical issues and measurable contamination or blockages to Webb’s optical path. The telescope is able to successfully gather light from distant objects and deliver it to instruments.

The only purpose of this unified image of a single star was to focus on it for alignment evaluation. But according to NASA, Webb’s optics and NIRCam are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background also show up on the image. (Image credit: NASA/STScI)

“In addition to enabling the incredible science that Webb will achieve, the teams that designed, built, tested, launched, and now operate this observatory have pioneered a new way to build space telescopes,” said Lee Feinberg, a Webb optical telescope element manager at NASA in the space agency’s blog.

After the fine phasing stage of alignment, JWST engineers have fully aligned NIRCam to the telescope’s mirrors.






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