Engineering 101

NASA’s Webb Ready for Instrument Commissioning

The alignment of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is finished, and it’s ready to capture images with its four powerful onboard science instruments. Webb will now move to a final series of preparations, known as science instrument commissioning. This process will take about two months before scientific operations begin in the summer.

You can see the telescope’s alignment across all of Webb’s instruments in a series of images that capture the observatory’s entire field of view.

Webb’s mirrors are now directing fully focused light collected from space down into each instrument, and each instrument is successfully capturing images with that light. The image quality delivered to all the devices is “diffraction-limited,” meaning that the fineness of detail is as good as physically possible given the size of the telescope. Now, scientists will command the telescope to point to different areas in the sky where the total amount of solar radiation hitting the observatory will vary to confirm thermal stability when changing targets. Furthermore, ongoing maintenance observations every two days will monitor the mirror alignment and, when needed, apply corrections to keep the mirrors in their aligned locations.

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