Webb’s Mirror Now Fully Unfolded. Prepare to Witness the Power of This Unprecedented Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope primary mirror is now fully unfolded, which successfully completes the mission’s major deployments. The starboard side of the primary mirror was released into place today, completing a two-week long, complex deployment sequence. The mirror of the most powerful space telescope ever built is now open, preparing to “unfold the Universe.”

The procedure of latching the mirror in place will take a few hours to complete, but should be finished by later on January 8. However, much work still remains before JWST can begin to operate in space. Five months of cooling, aligning, and commissioning the telescope and all the instruments will need to take place before the science can begin.

“To quote Mr. Churchill, now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning,” said Mark McCaughrean, the European Space Agency’s Senior Advisor for Science & Exploration and part of JWST’s Science Working Group, on Twitter. “But today is a big step. Huge congrats to all the teams involved!”

The Mission Operations Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland confirmed the completion of the Webb telescope’s final major deployment at 10:28am EST (1528 GMT), at a mission elapsed time of 14 days, 3 hours, 8 minutes.

At the time, Webb was more than 1,069,000 kilometers (664,000 miles) away from Earth.

Engineering teams celebrate at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore as the second primary mirror wing of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope unfolds, before beginning the process of latching the mirror wing into place, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. Credit: NASA/ Bill Ingalls.

Engineering teams had a quick celebration as the second primary mirror wing was fully unfolded, before beginning the process of latching the mirror wing into place.

Webb will study every phase of cosmic history—from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.

Engineering teams at NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore monitor progress as the observatory’s second primary mirror wing rotates into position, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

“A fully unfolded primary mirror is just a great thing to see and we’re ready to start aligning those mirrors,” said Lee Feinberg, Webb’s Telescope Element Manager at Goddard Spaceflight Center, one of the senior engineers on the project.

Feinberg explained during a broadcast on NASA TV that there are several different phases to aligning all 18 mirror segments in order for them to work as one giant mirror. Now fully deployed, the primary mirror stretches 6.5 meters (21 feet) across.  Each segment is controlled by seven actuators which can finely align the mirrors. Feinberg expects the alignment and testing to be fully complete by sometime in March, 2022. Then the secondary mirror will be aligned with the primary.

Get the latest updates on Webb at NASA’s Where’s Webb
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Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004, and has published over 6,000 articles on space exploration, astronomy, science and technology. She is the author of two books: "Eight Years to the Moon: the History of the Apollo Missions," (2019) which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible; and "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" (2016) tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond. Follow Nancy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Nancy_A and and Instagram at and https://www.instagram.com/nancyatkinson_ut/

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