The James Webb Space Telescope It completed the first major stage in its long process of aligning the 18-segment core observatory.
One star The ones viewed by the observatory were intentionally converted 18 times into a hexagon. In the end, those 18 images will be perfectly aligned in one sharp focus, but the interim result depicts a star that perfectly repeats in a stunning celestial snowflake-like hexagon pattern.
“The resulting image shows that the team moved each of Webb’s 18 primary mirror segments to bring 18 unfocused copies of a single star into a striped hexagonal formation,” NASA officials wrote in a message. Blog post Friday (February 18).
Images of stars are oriented in this specific pattern “so that they have the same relative positions as physical mirrors,” Matthew Lallo, systems scientist and director of the Telescopes Branch at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which directs Webb, said in the statement.
Then, the observatory will begin what engineers call “section alignment,” which will fix any larger positioning errors in individual parts of the primary mirror and align the secondary mirror.
Once the clip is successfully aligned, the team will begin the third stage – “image stacking” – which will eventually bring 18 images on top of each other into one clear view.
Lalo said the three-stage procedure would allow the team to experience an “intuitive and natural way to visualize changes” throughout the process. Another benefit, he added, is that “we can now watch the primary mirror slowly form into its exact, intended shape.”
Aligning the mirrors correctly is a key goal of Webb’s assignment, which is expected to finish in the summer. The mission began on December 25, 2021, with an ambitious mission to look at the early universe, exoplanets, and other important points in the universe.
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