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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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The JWST Wows
Hugh Bollinger

The JWST Wows


1st multi-galaxy view from the Webb Space Telescope, 7-11-22


NASA, in partnership the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canada (CSA), has released the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and they are stunning. The latest space telescope replaces the famous but aging Hubble and was launched last Christmas, 2021

                  Webb telescope 'selfie' with mirrors alignmnet, 3-2022 and test star 7-22 (credit: NASA/JWST)

The telescope's mirrors were fully aligned in March and a distant star was used in focusing the instrument. This followed period following the launch for the telescope to be properly positioned at a stable vantage point a million miles from Earth and all of its infrared sensors and other detectors to be calibrated and tested. The 21 foot diameter mirror consists of 18 separate hexagonal segments which then had to be aligned within fractions of a millimeter to properly focus on any future target. All of these steps could only be accomplished after NASA, and other space engineering partners, had properly executed ~300 discrete and independent mechanical steps to properly unfold the origami-like telescope. The device had been folded inside the Ariane rocket that was used to launch it on its mission of peering into the cosmos could begin. Failure of any one of these existential maneuvers would have doomed the $10 billion instrument.

The first image captured a region of deep space containing thousands of galaxies, including the faintest objects ever observed in infrared light. These appeared at the beginning of the universe nearly 14 billion years ago. The view has wowed everyone and more will now follow. However, the talent, expertise, and creativity of all the scientists and engineers who crafted this wonder of a science instrument should receive equal recognition. WHB

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