Every mirror of the JWST, the largest and most powerful telescope ever sent to space, is now officially aligned and in focus. To mark the achievement, the team has released a series of stunning images that show just how sharp the observatory actually is.
Not only are its crucial instruments showing outstanding sharpness but even the fine guidance sensors, which are just used for positioning, delivered incredibly high-quality images. Truly a testimony of the telescope's power.
“These remarkable test images from a successfully aligned telescope demonstrate what people across countries and continents can achieve when there is a bold scientific vision to explore the universe,” said Lee Feinberg, JWST optical telescope element manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement.
According to NASA, the optical performance of the telescope "continues to be better than the engineering team’s most optimistic predictions."
It's been quite the journey from the telescope's first photons of light captured, to its early, blurry first image, its first clear image, and now these incredible engineering images.
The telescope is made of 18 hexagonal mirrors which had to be angled to extraordinary precision. If each segment was the size of Texas, the offset between the two couldn’t be more than 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches). These mirrors direct fully-focused light from space down into the telescope's four instruments, with each successfully capturing images from that light delivered to them.
There are still some calibrations to do to confirm its thermal stability, pointing at different areas of the sky without changes to the very cold temperature at which its instruments have to be kept.
Next up for the telescope is the commissioning phase for its scientific instruments. Each of them will be tested and configured to confirm they are truly ready to begin the scientific mission, which all going well should start in late June.