On December 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope rocketed into space.
The plan envisioned six months of deployment, cooling, and calibration.
Afterwards, science operations would commence, yielding a 5-to-10 year anticipated lifetime.
Yet on April 28, 2022, each instrument’s alignment was completed, with a ~ 20 year lifetime expected.
Both telescope and team performed dazzlingly, surpassing expectations overall.
First: the pristine, on-course launch conserved fuel purposed for course-correction.
JWST reached its destination, the L2 Lagrange point, ahead of schedule.
Each component deployed correctly, and cooled as planned.
In early February, the 7-step alignment / commissioning process began.
First, the images produced by each mirror segment were identified.
Second, the images were aligned, and then third, were stacked.
Fourth, coarse phasing synthesized 18 small telescopes into one large one.
Fifth, NIRCam’s fine phasing occurred, creating the first fully focused image.
JWST’s unique set of spikes arises from the telescope’s optical design.
Sixth, the alignment coverage extended across JWST’s instrument suite and full field-of-view.
Seventh, final iterative corrections finished the alignment.
and MIRI instruments are all aligned.
Only instrument commissioning and final calibrations remain.
With fuel savings and rapid alignment, ~ 20 + years of science operations will soon begin.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.
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