NASA’s new space telescope sees the light of the first star and takes a selfie


NASA’s new space telescope has captured its first starlight and even snapped a selfie of its giant golden mirror.

The 18 segments of the James Webb Space Telescope’s main mirror appear to be working properly after a month and a half of mission, officials said Friday.

The telescope’s first target was a bright star 258 light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.

That was a really amazing moment, said Marshall Perrin of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

In the coming months, the hexagonal mirror segments, each about the size of a coffee table, will align and focus as one, allowing science observations to begin in late June.

The $10 billion infrared observatory considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope will search for light from the first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe nearly 14 billion years ago. It will also examine the atmospheres of alien worlds for possible signs of life.

NASA didn’t detect the crippling glitch in Hubble’s mirror until after it was launched in 1990; It was more than three years before spacewalking astronauts were able to correct the telescope’s blurred vision.

While everything looks good with Webb so far, engineers should be able to rule out major mirror failures by next month, Feinberg said.

Webb’s 21-foot (6.5-meter) gold-plated mirror is the largest ever launched into space. An infrared camera on the telescope took a mirror image as one segment observed the target star.

More or less the reaction was ‘Holy Cow!’ Feinberg said.

NASA posted the selfie, along with a mosaic of starlight from each of the mirror segments. The 18 points of starlight resemble bright fireflies fluttering against a black night sky.

After 20 years with the project, it’s incredibly satisfying to see that everything has worked so well so far, said Marcia Rieke, lead scientist for the infrared camera at the University of Arizona.

Webb took off from South America in December and reached its designated location 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) away last month.


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