The Webb telescope is ready for SCIENCE. Here’s what it means

NASA is expected to release the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope on July 12, 2022. They will mark the beginning of the next era in astronomy, as Webb – the largest space telescope ever built – begins collecting scientific data that will help answer questions about the universe’s earliest moments and allow astronomers to study exoplanets in more detail than ever before investigate. But it took nearly eight months of travel, setup, testing, and calibration to ensure this most prized of telescopes is prime-time ready. Marcia Rieke, an astronomer at the University of Arizona and the scientist responsible for one of Webb’s four cameras, explains what she and her colleagues did to get this telescope working.

1. What has happened since the telescope was launched?

Following the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope on December 25, 2021, the team began the long process of placing the telescope in its final orbital position, unfolding the telescope and, once everything had cooled, closing the onboard cameras and sensors calibrate.

The launch went as smoothly as a rocket launch can go. One of the first things my colleagues at NASA noticed was that the telescope had more fuel remaining on board than predicted to make future adjustments to its orbit. This will allow Webb to operate much longer than the mission’s original 10-year goal.

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The first task during Webb’s month-long journey to its final orbital location was to deploy the telescope. This went smoothly, starting with the smooth setting up of the sunshade, which helps cool the telescope, followed by aligning the mirrors and turning on the sensors.

Once the sunshade was open, our team began monitoring the temperatures of the four cameras and spectrometers on board, waiting for them to reach temperatures low enough for us to test each of the 17 different modes in which the instruments operate be able.