Science & Technology

Follow the Next Steps in the Webb Space Telescope’s Journey


Webb Telescope L2 Flyby

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the next of NASA’s Great Observatories; following in the line of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma-ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. JWST combines qualities of two of its predecessors, observing in infrared light, like Spitzer, with fine resolution, like Hubble. Credit: NASA, SkyWorks Digital, Northrop Grumman, STScI

After two weeks of complex structural deployments, Webb has passed a major milestone and is now fully unfolded in space. For insight on what to expect in the months ahead and how to follow along, we hear from Alexandra Lockwood, project scientist for Webb science communications at the Space Telescope Science Institute:

“Words can’t describe the pride and excitement the Webb team is feeling right now. From engineers to scientists to IT staff to graphic designers to administrative personnel (and more!), we are all overjoyed with the incredible successes of the observatory to date. While we still have a long way to go before getting the science, the engineering feats that have been accomplished, on Earth and now in space, are awe-inspiring. They are a testament to the hard work and expertise of the international Webb team.

“Now that the action-packed deployment sequence is over, we are moving into a much slower, yet deliberate, phase of the commissioning process. In the next two weeks, we will move each of the 18 primary mirror segments, and the secondary mirror, out of their launch positions. Then five months of commissioning will include 1) further cooling of the entire observatory, and of the Mid-Infrared Instrument in particular, 2) checking and then aligning the secondary and 18 mirror segments into a single coherent optical system, first with the NIRCam instrument and then with all instruments individually and in parallel, and 3) calibrating of each of the four instruments and their many scientific modes. The novelty and variety of science that this observatory can produce requires thousands of things to be checked ahead of time. But rest assured that this summer will sizzle with the hot (nay cold?) observations we will soon be sharing!

“The team is committed to keeping you informed – even through the often slow and meticulous parts of this commissioning process. This blog will be updated weekly, and sometimes more often. Please check back to hear more status updates, in-depth explanations of Webb’s science and technology, and even some fun team anecdotes!

“We’re excited to be on this journey to #UnfoldTheUniverse with you.”

—Alexandra Lockwood, project scientist for Webb science communications, Space Telescope Science Institute





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