NASA's massive new observatory has reached another milestone.
After nearly a full month in space, the James Webb Space Telescope, also known as JWST or Webb, is nearing completion of its deployment work. The complicated array of implementations has seen the telescope transform from its tightly folded launch configuration to what looks like a real observatory, even though scientific observations are still months away.
"Right in from the @ NASAWebb team: All 18 primary mirror segments and the secondary mirror are now fully implemented!" NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote in one tweet posted Wednesday (Jan. 19). "Congratulations to the teams who have worked tirelessly since the launch to reach this point. Soon, Webb arrives at his new home, L2!"
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JWST's golden primary mirror includes 18 individual hexagonal segments, each controlled by seven actuators that allow precise movements. All 18 segments are now in their deployed positions several days faster than planned.
Work on the mirror segments began on January 12 and is expected to take about 10 days. But despite today's announcement, these mirror segments are not quite ready to observe yet. First, NASA must perform the careful process of fine-tuning the position of each mirror to transform 18 individual views of the universe into one large ultra-powerful mirror.
The team behind Webb expects the entire mirroring process to take about three months in total.
Webb has another important implementation milestone to complete, a orbit burning that will put the observatory in orbit around a place in space called the Earth Sun's Lagrange point 2 or L2. L2 is located nearly 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth, on the side of the planet opposite the sun.
According to a NASA timeline, JWST is expected to complete this final arrival maneuver on Sunday (January 23).