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Conducting Infrared Astronomy

Putting an end to all speculation, the James Webb Space Telescope of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently sent images to the Earth, and the US Space Agency released some of those on February 11, 2022. The first published image taken by the Space Telescope shows part of a mosaic created over 25 hours beginning on February 2, early in the process of aligning the 18 segments of the Telescope’s mirror. In a statement, NASA said that the mosaic, a sun-like star, is situated around 260 light-years away. The telescope, designed primarily to conduct infrared astronomy, also sent a selfie that looked like a shining golden mirror.

NASA sent James Webb into space on December 25, 2021 in order to carry out surveillance on the outer world. In a rare first, NASA sent a 21ft-long telescope into space. It is basically an observatory. The first image taken by James Webb shows a star in the constellation Ursa Major (or Great Bear), which is not visible from Earth without a telescope. Meanwhile, the star is called HD 84406. Marshall Perrin, the Deputy Telescope Scientist for Webb and an Astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, said that it was really a wonderful moment.

Image taken by NASA’s James Webb Telescope

Perrin stressed: “This initial search covered an area about the size of the full moon because the segment dots could potentially have been spread out on the sky. Taking so much data right on the first day required all of Webb’s science operations and data processing systems here on the Earth working smoothly with the observatory in space right from the start.” He added: “And we found light from all 18 segments very near the centre early in that search! This is a great starting point for mirror alignment.

For her part, Webb Operations Project Scientist Jane Rigby said: “The first images are going to be ugly, as the telescope began the process of unstowing its mirrors. It is going to be blurry. We’ll have 18 of these little images all over the sky.

A ‘selfie’ shows the 18 segments of the James Webb Space Telescope’s primary mirror as seen from a specialized camera inside the NIRCam instrument. (Image credit: NASA)

There is a hexagonal mirror in the James Webb telescope, and each arm of this mirror is the size of a coffee table. Together, they create a focus. This way, the work of full-fledged observation would begin from the end of June 2022. The James Webb Telescope or the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO), the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, has been built at a cost of USD 10 billion. It shall be able to detect cosmic objects through infrared rays. There were initial troubles after the launch of Hubble in 1990, and the scientists had taken three years to repair the telescope. However, James Webb is functioning in a near-perfect manner.

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