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NASA's James Webb Space Telescope sends back clearest images to date

The telescope's first test shots were captured after the telescope completed the stage of alignment called 'fine phasing'.
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Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Senior Journalist on
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The "selfie" image of Webb's 18 primary mirror segments collecting light from the same star in unison.

Image: NASA

The team behind NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have claimed to have captured the "highest resolution infrared images taken from space ever" as part of its first test shot.

The images released by NASA include a "selfie" of JWST completing the "fine phasing" alignment of its 18 hexagonal mirrors to act as a single mirror, and images of a single star and the galaxies and stars behind it.

"We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is beating specifications. We are excited about what this means for science," NASA Goddard deputy optical telescope element manager for Webb said.

NASA also confirmed there were no critical issues or blockages to the JWST optical path, and that the test shot showed the mirrors can collect light from distant objects and deliver it to its instruments without issue.

"More than 20 years ago, the Webb team set out to build the most powerful telescope that anyone has ever put in space and came up with an audacious optical design to meet demanding science goals," NASA science mission directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said.

NASA said the team will now spend the next six weeks finalising the alignment of the telescope by using algorithms to assess and calculate any final corrections for completion by early May or sooner. Following this, the team will spend two months prepping the instruments, with NASA expecting to capture its first set of scientific full-resolution images and data in the summer.

The JWST was launched in December from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, as part of an international program between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. Located one million miles away from Earth, the telescope has been developed to study the evolution of our solar system. 

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Image: NASA

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