after James Webb Space Telescope Officials have released a stunning image of a single star, and the team is ready to get other telescope parts in line with the observatory’s mirrors.
The $10 billion telescope has been successfully aligned with the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam), such as A star picture showed. But the observatory still has four other instruments that it should be able to switch between in perfect alignment to get sharp images of distant objects.
It will start with the steering tool (called the Precision Steering Sensor or FGS) and then extend to the other three tools, NASA update Declared Thursday (March 17). Web engineers anticipate that this process, called “multi-tool multi-domain alignment,” will take six weeks to complete.
Webb should complete its commissioning period around June, six months after launching on December 25 on an ambitious mission to observe the universe from deep space and collect data on objects ranging from outer planets to galaxies.
Switching between cameras in space is complicated, but the telescope will eventually be able to use multiple instruments at the same time, according to an update written by Jonathan Gardner, deputy chief scientist for the Webb Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
Ground-based telescopes have the advantage of having engineers on site to remove instruments you don’t need in between investigations. However, the procedure is different in Webb and other space telescopes.
“All cameras see the sky at the same time; to switch the target from one camera to another, we reset the telescope to place the target in the other device’s field of view,” Gardner wrote.
The goal of the new alignment, Gardner said, is to “provide good focus and sharp images across all instruments” while knowing the relative positions of each instrument’s field of view.
Last weekend, Gardner continued, engineers learned the locations of three near-infrared instruments with respect to the FGS, and updated that information in the software used to orient the telescope.
The FGS recently reached its own milestone, which was finalizing “Exact Evidence Mode”. It occurs when the guide hits a guide star for the highest possible accuracy of the device. In addition, engineers take “dark” images to see what happens when light does not reach the device, allowing individuals to more accurately calibrate the device.
The last instrument to be matched will be the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) as it waits for the coolant’s ability to make it reach an operating temperature of minus 448°F (minus 267°C).
Gardner also explained how the tools would work together to look at the target.
“With parallel scientific exposures, when we point an instrument at a target, we can read another instrument at the same time,” he said. “Parallel observations don’t see the same point in the sky, so they provide what is essentially a random sample of the universe.”
He concluded that parallel data allows scientists to “determine the statistical properties of the galaxies being discovered. Additionally, for programs that want to map a large area, a lot of parallel images will overlap, increasing the efficiency of the valuable web dataset.”
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