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James Webb Space Telescope's 1st view of the cosmos has scientists thrilled for more


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Tereza Pultarova

Mar. 16 2022

The James Webb Space Telescope's main mirror is fully aligned and performing even better than it had been designed to do, NASA officials revealed in a news conference held virtually on Wednesday (March 16).

The 21.3-foot-wide (6.5 meters) mirror composed of 18 hexagonal segments had to travel to space folded. Aligning it into one smooth reflecting surface was one of the main tasks that the Webb control team has had to tackle since the giant telescope's launch on Dec. 25

The alignment process, which involved fine-tuning the positions and inclinations of the 18 segments with nanometer-scale precision, has now been completed, officials said. Although that process is not yet complete, the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope mission — the most complex and most expensive such observatory ever launched — is already producing images that take the scientists' breath away. 

"The telescope's performance so far is everything that we dared to hope," Jane Rigby, Webb operations project scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the news conference. "The engineering images that we saw today are as sharp and as crisp as the images that Hubble [Space Telescope] can take, but are at a wavelength of light that is totally invisible to Hubble. So this is making the invisible universe snapping into very, very sharp focus."


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Apr 7 2022


00:00 - Introduction

00:30 - Gravitational lensing explained

02:09- An unexpected arc discovery in the RELICS survey

02:24 - How do we know it's 12.9 billion light years away?

04:02 - Repeat observations reveal clumps along the arc

04:53 - How we can see a SINGLE STAR at that distance

06:20 - The name Earendel and the Tolkein connection

07:11 - How do we know it's a single star?!

08:10 - What else could it be? Star cluster, binary star, Milky Way foreground star

09:23 - What's next: getting a spectrum with JWST

10:34 - The excitement around Population III stars

11:38 - Outro

12:06 - Brilliant

13:16 - Bloopers

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