They will mark the beginning of the next era in astronomy as Webb – the largest telescope ever built – begins to collect scientific data that will help answer questions about the early cosmos and allow astronomers to examine exoplanets in more detail than ever before. . But it took about eight months to navigate, set up, test and evaluate to make sure this most crucial telescope was ready for the first time.
Marcia Rieke, an astronomer at the University of Arizona and a scientist who owns one of Webb’s four cameras, explains what he and his colleagues have been doing to make the telescope work.
What has happened since the launch of the telescope?
Following the successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope on December 25, 2021, the team embarked on a lengthy process of removing the telescope from its final orbital position, revealing the telescope and – as everything has cooled – aligning the cameras and sensors on the board.
The launch went smoothly as the rocket launch could go on. One of the first things my colleagues at NASA noticed was that the telescope had more fuel on board than was predicted to make future changes in its orbit. This will allow Webb to operate longer than its original 10-year mission goal.
The first task during Webb’s month-long journey to its final destination on the track was to unveil the telescope. This went on without a hitch, starting with releasing a white-knuckle sun shield that helps to cool the telescope, followed by the arrangement of the mirrors and the lighting sensor.
Once the sun protection was opened, our team began monitoring the temperature of four cameras and board spectrometers, expecting them to reach low enough temperatures to start exploring each of the 17 operating devices.