What NASA’s James Webb Looks Like From Powerful Earth-Based Telescopes

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This artist’s design shows the James Webb Space Telescope fully extended in space. Credit: Adriana Manrique Gutierrez, NASA animator

The past month has been an exciting time for the James Webb Space Telescope! After its launch on Christmas Day, the telescope spent the next few weeks unfolding its mirrors, checking individual segments, and then maneuvering to L2, where it will spend the next ten to twenty years unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos. According to " data-gt-translate-attributes="[{" attribute="">Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson and the Director of Science Communications (CSCO) for the JWSTJames Webb will begin collecting light this summer.

To mark the occasion, the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) captures images from James Webb to give people an idea of ​​what it looks like in orbit. Unfortunately, there’s not much to see there except for a bright spot in the night sky. But as the famous “Pale blue dot” photo of Earth (taken by Traveler 1 as it leaves the solar system), or cassini‘s”The day the earth smiled” image, there is a lot of meaning in this little point of light.

Webb Space Telescope Deployment Path

Credit: NASA

The VTP is an advanced astronomical service launched in 2006 by the Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory, located in Ceccano, Italy. The VTP operates two remotely accessible robotic telescopes, the 17 inch g/6.8 (432/2939 mm) corrected Dall-Kirkham Astrograph Planewave (aka “Elena”), and the Celestron 14″-f/8.4 (356/3000mm) Schmidt-Cassegrain OTA. They also offer online public observation sessions, live streams, expert commentary from their scientific staff, and public outreach to people around the world.

The JWST image (below) was taken on January 24 with Elena. This robotic telescope tracked the apparent movement of the JWST automatically and acquired a single unfiltered exposure of 300 that shows the position of the telescope (indicated by an arrow in the center). When photographed, the JWST had reached its final destination (L2), placing it at a distance of approximately 1.4 million km (869,920 mi) from Earth.

James Webb Space Telescope from Earth

The James Webb Telescope photographed from Earth. – January 24, 2022. Credit: TVTP 2.0

In addition to the image above, the VTP has also created a short GIF animation (below) that shows the apparent motion of the JWST against the stars. While it may look like a small dot against a backdrop of brighter dots (and the darkness of space), these images tell the story of an ambitious mission that spanned decades. Work began on the telescope in 1996, and it was initially hoped that the James Webb would launch by 2007 and with a budget of $500 million.

Unfortunately, there were numerous delays and cost overruns due to a major redesign, problems with the sun visor and the Ariadne 5 rocket that would launch it. the COVID-19[female[feminine the pandemic has also imposed delays, as has the fact that the James Webb is the most complex and advanced space telescope ever designed. Time and time again, the origami nature of the telescope (where it has to fold up to fit a payload fairing) has required extensive testing, and the smallest issues have required further testing and safety checks.

James Webb Space Telescope from Earth

The James Webb Space Telescope in motion against the stars. January 24, 2022. Credit: TVTP 2.0

In 2016, construction was finally complete, but an extensive test program still needed to be completed. At the end of 2021, the telescope tests were completed and the James Webb was shipped to Kourou, French Guyana, to be incorporated into the Ariadne 5 rocket. When the launch finally happened on Christmas Day, it went off without a hitch. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for Science Missions, commented, “It really is Christmas with all the presents and stuff and we have a space mission!

In 2016, construction was finally complete, but an extensive test program still needed to be completed. At the end of 2021, testing of the telescope was completed and the James Webb was shipped to Kourou, French Guiana, to be integrated into the Ariadne 5 rocket. When the launch finally happened on Christmas Day, it went off without a hitch. NASA Associate Administrator for Science Missions Thomas Zurbuchen, “It’s really Christmas with all the presents and stuff and we have a space mission.”

Now that the mission is at L2, the mission team is waiting for the telescope to reach operating temperature. This will be followed by telescope instrument activation, final testing and calibration. Barring any problems, NASA expects the James Webb to begin collecting its first light by June 2022. As NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said:

“Webb, welcome home!” Kudos to the team for all their hard work ensuring Webb’s safe arrival at L2 today. We are about to uncover the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see the first new views of Webb’s universe this summer!

Originally published on Universe today.

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