Webb telescope’s first test image includes an unexpected ‘selfie’ – CBS Baltimore

(CNN) – The James Webb Space Telescope is setting up shop while it’s a cold million miles from Earth.

The observatory has shared its first selfie from space after testing its iconic gold mirror and Near Infrared Camera.

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Webb has been in the process of cooling down and aligning its reflective segments since February 2, after reached its orbital point beyond the moon on 24 January. The telescope will launch into space on December 25 and will serve as NASA’s most complex and powerful observatory.

Webb team members say if the image looks a bit blurry it’s predictable. Currently, the telescope is still in the operational phase before it begins data collection and scientific observations this summer, when brilliant new images of our universe are expected to be released. announced.

Starlight shooting

Webb’s latest challenge is a test run of the Near Infrared Camera, or NIRCam, which identifies dots of starlight from the same star in each of its giant mirror’s 18 hexagonal segments. The telescope points its mirror at a lone bright star in the Ursa Major constellation known as HD 84406.

The Webb team said: “This star was chosen specifically because it is easily recognizable and is not crowded by other stars of similar brightness, which helps to reduce confusion in the background.

Webb created a mosaic of 18 points of starlight as segments of mirrors reflected this light back into the telescope’s small secondary mirrors and into NIRCam’s detectors.

Images like those shared by NASA on Friday could help Webb’s team ensure the mirrors are perfectly aligned before the observatory sets its sights on alien planets and distant galaxies, instead. forever changing the way we see the universe.

Over the next month, careful adjustments will merge the mirror segments so that those 18 dots become the image of a single star.

“The entire Webb team was amazed to see how well the first steps of telescope imaging and alignment were going. Marcia Rieke, NIRCam’s principal investigator and professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, said in a statement.

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The 18-dot mosaic was the result of Webb taking 1,560 images over the course of 25 hours, even though the observatory was able to find the star in the first six hours and used only 16 images. The 18 points are just the center of a giant mosaic of more than 2 billion pixels.

“This initial search covers an area the size of a region,” said Marshall Perrin, Webb’s deputy telescope scientist and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. equal to the full Moon because the segmented dots may have spread out across the sky. in a statement.

Mirror selfies taken by a special lens inside the NIRCam can produce a more primary mirror image than what Webb sees in space. The lens exists primarily for engineering and alignment, so it’s an additional image that led the Webb team to say “the divine cow,” said Lee Feinberg, Webb optical telescope element director at the Center NASA’s Goddard Space Flight in Greenbelt, Maryland, said.

Holds a deep freeze to operate

Webb’s orbit will keep the telescope aligned with Earth as our planet orbits the sun. This alignment protects the telescope from heat radiated from the sun, Earth, and even the moon.

The telescope is required to stay cool because it will observe the universe in infrared light and detect the faintest signals from objects in our distant universe. Since infrared light can be detected as heat, the entire spacecraft needs to be shielded from bright heat sources.

The spacecraft includes a five-layer sunshade to protect Webb’s giant mirror and instruments from the sun’s rays. Webb’s equipment needs to be kept at minus 370 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 223 degrees Celsius) to function.

Some of Webb’s devices need to work even cooler, so they’ll continue to cool down over the next few months. Future images taken by Webb will only become clearer and more detailed as the spacecraft cools and the mirrors align.

“This amazing telescope not only spreads its wings, it opens its eyes,” said Feinberg.

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https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2022/02/11/webb-telescopes-first-test-images-include-an-unexpected-selfie/ Webb telescope’s first test image includes an unexpected ‘selfie’ – CBS Baltimore

Dustin Huang

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