First images from James Webb Space Telescope revealed

On December 25, 2021, James Webb Space Telescope was launched from the French Guiana towards Lagrange point 2. People have been anxiously awaiting the return of the first image from the next-generation space scope, but now that wait is finally over!

In a blog post today, NASA shared a mosaic image from the initial alignment process. The image, quite frankly, isn’t much to look at, however, this is just the start! Those 18 points of light in the image are all from the same star, with the different points being from Webb’s different mirror sections.

The telescope still isn’t ready to take scientific imagery, it still needs to be fully aligned and calibrated, but this is an exciting step towards that goal!

In the NASA blog post, the agency explained:

The team’s challenge was twofold: confirm that NIRCam was ready to collect light from celestial objects, and then identify starlight from the same star in each of the 18 primary mirror segments. The result is an image mosaic of 18 randomly organized dots of starlight, the product of Webb’s unaligned mirror segments all reflecting light from the same star back at Webb’s secondary mirror and into NIRCam’s detectors.

This wasn’t the only James Webb image we got to see today, as NASA shared a “selfie” of the telescope mirrors.

This “selfie” was created using a specialized pupil imaging lens inside of the NIRCam instrument that was designed to take images of the primary mirror segments instead of images of space. This configuration is not used during scientific operations and is used strictly for engineering and alignment purposes. In this case, the bright segment was pointed at a bright star, while the others aren’t currently in the same alignment. This image gave an early indication of the primary mirror alignment to the instrument. Credit: NASA

We can expect plenty more news from the space agency about Webb, as the first scientific images are expected to come in this summer.

Though this is a big moment, confirming that Webb is a functional telescope, there is much ahead to be done in the coming months to prepare the observatory for full scientific operations using all four of its instruments.

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