On December 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope blasted off into space.
The plan called for six months of deployment, cooling, and calibration.
Then science operations would begin, giving an expected lifespan of 5–10 years.
Yet by April 28, 2022, the alignment of each instrument was complete, with an expected lifespan of around 20 years.
The telescope and the team performed dazzlingly, exceeding expectations overall.
First: the fuel preserved from the virgin launch on the course intended for course correction.
JWST reached its destination, the Lagrange point L2, earlier than expected.
Every component deployed correctly and cooled as expected.
In early February, the 7-step alignment/commissioning process began.
First, the images produced by each mirror segment were identified.
Second, the images were aligned, then third, they were stacked.
Fourth, the coarse phasing synthesized 18 small telescopes into one big one.
Fifth, NIRCam fine phasing occurred, creating the first fully focused image.
JWST’s unique set of tips stems from the optical design of the telescope.
Sixth, alignment coverage has expanded to JWST’s instrument suite and full field of view.
Seventh, final iterative fixes completed the alignment.
Now NIR Cam,
fine guide sensor,
and the MIRI instruments are all lined up.
All that remains is the commissioning of the instrument and the final calibrations.
With fuel savings and quick alignment, about 20+ years of science operations will soon begin.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in pictures, visuals and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.