NASA's James Webb Telescope teases with one more preview of an enticing star

The successor to Hubble is halfway through aligning its mirrors.
Loukia Papadopoulos
James Webb Space Telescope in outer space.dima_zel/iStock

It's just been three months since NASA's James Webb telescope started its journey and it's already showing results.

Despite its mirror segments not yet being lined up, the telescope has released an image of an exciting star, according to a NASA blog published on Friday.

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The question now becomes: what more will we discover with this wonderful tool?

An enticing image of a star

“We still have work to do, but we are increasingly pleased with the results we’re seeing,” said in the statement Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Years of planning and testing are paying dividends, and the team could not be more excited to see what the next few weeks and months bring.”

The new image released is Webb's first-ever “stacked” picture of the star HD 84406 and it gives an idea of how sharp the telescope's eye will be once it has reached its final form. The term "stacked" refers to the shape and processes the telescope had to undertake in order to produce the image.

NASA's James Webb Telescope teases with one more preview of an enticing star
The completed image of star HD 84406. Source: NASA

NASA's engineers began with a process called Segment Alignment. This is when all 18 of Webb’s beryllium and gold-coated mirror segments are carefully placed into alignment with one another. 

The next step is called Image Stacking and is where the term "stacked" came from. In this process, the engineers activated sets of six mirrors at a time and commanded them to repoint their light to overlap.

Once all these steps had been completed, NASA was able to produce an image of the faraway star by using Webb’s primary science instrument: the NIRCam.

Next steps

What is next for the powerful telescope? The tool has just undergone stages two and three of a seven-step process that aims to fully align the telescope’s mirrors and get all 18 segments functioning as one unit.

As the Webb Telescope completes each next phase, the images it will produce will become clearer and clearer, as never seen before. It's an exciting time for astronomers everywhere as they wait for Webb to reach its final complete form and hopefully unlock some of the cosmo's deepest mysteries.

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