The James Webb Space Telescope has detected its first star and captured a selfie, NASA announced Friday. The steps are part of a months-long process to align the observatory’s huge golden mirror that astronomers hope will begin to unravel the mysteries of the early Universe this summer. The first image sent from the cosmos is far from surprising: 18 fuzzy white dots on a black background, all showing the same object: HD 84406, a bright, isolated star in the constellation Ursa Major.
However, it represents an important milestone. All 18 points were captured by the 18 individual segments of the main mirror, and the image is now the basis for aligning and focusing those hexagonal pieces on the mirror. James Webb Space Telescope.
The light bounced off the segments to Webb’s secondary mirror, a round object located at the end of the long arms, and then to the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument, Webb’s primary imaging device.
“The entire Webb team is ecstatic at how well the first steps in imaging and aligning the telescope are going,” Marcia Rieke, principal investigator for the NIRCam instrument and regents professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, said in a statement. .
“We were very happy to see the light breaking through on NIRCam.”
The imaging process began on February 2, with Webb pointing to different positions around the star’s predicted location.
Although Webb’s initial search covered an area of the sky roughly equal to the size of the full Moon, all points were located near the center, meaning the observatory is already relatively well positioned for the final alignment.
To aid the process, the team also captured a “selfie” taken not through an externally mounted camera, but through a special lens onboard the NIRCam.
POT he had previously said that a selfie was not possible, so the news is a welcome bonus for space fans.
“I think the reaction was holy,” Lee Feinberg, element manager for the Webb Optical Telescope, told reporters on a call, explaining that the team wasn’t sure it was possible to get such an image using only light from the stars. stars.
The $10 billion (approximately Rs. 75.6 billion rupees) observatory was launched from French Guiana on December 25 and is now in an Earth-aligned orbit around the Sun, one million miles (1 .5 million km) from our planet, in a region of space called the second Lagrange point.
Webb will begin his science mission in the summer, which includes using his high-resolution instruments to look back in time 13.5 billion years to the first generation of galaxies that formed after the Big Bang.
The visible and ultraviolet light emitted by the earliest luminous objects has been stretched out by the expansion of the Universe and arrives today in the form of infrared, which Webb is equipped to detect with unprecedented clarity.
Its mission also includes the study of distant planets, known as exoplanets, to determine their origin, evolution and habitability.