GADGETS

NASA completes deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope


NASA is a big step away from putting the James Webb Space Telescope into service. The agency successfully deployed JWST’s primary gold-plated mirror, and completed all major instrument deployments. The mission crew will still have to align the telescope’s optics by moving the primary mirror clips (a process that takes months), but it’s a strong sign that the $10 billion device is in good shape.

JWST also requires a third burn to correct its course as it heads toward the L2 Lagrange point between Earth and the Sun. Astronomers will use the point to study infrared light without interference, potentially providing insights into the early universe not possible with Hubble and other equipment.

The first images from the telescope won’t be available until summer, and it may take longer before these images translate into meaningful discoveries. However, publishing is an achievement. JWST marks the first time that NASA has dismantled a complex observatory in space — it shows that projects like this are viable, even if they’re unlikely to be common in the near future.

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