The James Webb Space Telescope completed crucial steps to align its mirror segments

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The James has successfully completed a number of steps crucial for aligning its 18 gold mirror segments. On March 11, Webb completed “fine phasing,” a critical stage that ensures Webb’s optical capabilities are working how they should. The team is encouraged to see Webb performing even better than expected. The process is ongoing. For the next couple of months, the team will finish the last steps of the alignment process and ensure all of the science instruments are calibrated. “The engineering images that we saw today are as sharp and as crisp as the images that Hubble can take, but are at a wavelength of light that is totally invisible to humans, so this is making the invisible universe snapping into very, very sharp focus,” said Jane Rigby, Webb operations project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The first high-resolution images Webb collects of the cosmos aren’t expected until the end of June.

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To remember, the telescope comes equipped with a mirror that can extend 21 feet and 4 inches (6.5 meters). It includes 18 hexagonal gold-coated segments, each 4.3 feet (1.32 meters) in diameter. Since 2004, thousands of scientists, technicians and engineers from 14 countries have spent 40 million hours building the telescope. It is now ready to help us understand the origins of the universe and begin to answer key questions about our existence. Webb will begin to collect data and its first images later in 2022.