The final major deployments required to put up the new James Webb Space Telescope are being completed by mission controllers.
On Wednesday, the observatory’s secondary mirror was secured into place on the end of three 8-meter-long booms.
It prepares the way for the crucial unpacking of Webb’s massive main mirror – the largest reflecting surface ever transported into space.
This segmented structure, measuring 6.5m wide, will gather up light from the very first stars to ignite in the galaxy.
The large size of the mirror will allow it to gather the lightest signals in the most perfect detail.
However, if the light collected by the reflector cannot be directed into the telescope’s equipment, it is worthless. This is what the 74cm-wide secondary mirror is for. Whatever the primary mirror observes from out in front will bounce back into the core of the observatory.
The secondary mirror, like many other components of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), had to be folded to fit within the mission’s launch rocket on December 25.
It was really flat-packed up against the main mirror, with one of its three booms fitted with a hinge joint to ensure everything was tucked in snugly.
The orders were transmitted on Wednesday by controllers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Maryland, US, to push the booms into their appropriate, stretched-out shape.
This was accomplished in two carefully controlled movements, culminating in the tripod frame being latched and secured at 16:52 GMT to prevent further displacement.
|James Webb Space Telescope – Photos Credits – NASA|
“Another successful day for JWST. The secondary mirror deployment team, in particular, performed an outstanding job. This is incredible, “said Bill Ochs, the Webb program manager at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). “We’ve gotten to a stage where we’re around 600,000 kilometers from Earth and have a telescope. Everyone should be proud.”
The major mirror is up next for Webb. Its rollout should take place during the following few days.
At first glance, this mirror resembled a drop-leaf table with two edges swept back.
To obtain the ideal 6.5m-wide concave form, these “wings” must now be turned through 90 degrees.
All 18 segments are composed of the metal beryllium, which is lightweight and retains its form even at extremely low temperatures. The gold coating ensures near-perfect infrared reflection – the wavelength of light in which the pioneer stars will be observed to glow.
Webb replaces the Hubble Space Telescope, which had a serious flaw in its primary mirror when it was launched in 1990.
Scientists rapidly realized that the reflector had not been properly polished after obtaining the initial images.
It wasn’t until astronauts were able to use corrective lenses that Hubble was able to see the cosmos clearly.
This will not be an issue for Webb.
“The segments on the primary mirror have actuators behind them that enable us to move them around and even vary their curvature,” Lee Feinberg, the Nasa engineer in charge of Webb’s mirror system, revealed.
“Those parts will be misaligned when they are first launched in orbit. But all of those actuators will take us from a millimetre misalignment to a nanometre misalignment. Improvement by a factor of a million.”
In other words, Webb will be concentrating on space, a work that will begin in about a month.
The new observatory is meant to gaze farther into the Universe than Hubble and, as a result, discover events that occurred more than 13.5 billion years ago.
In addition to searching for the first stars and galaxies, scientists want to utilize Webb’s superior capabilities to examine the atmospheres of distant planets in the hopes of finding indications of life.
Webb is now traveling 1.5 million kilometers from Earth on the planet’s “midnight” side. It will investigate the Universe from this place.
James Webb is a collaboration of American, European, and Canadian space organizations.
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