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NASA begins process of bringing new space telescope into focus

By Steve Gorman (Reuters) - NASA on Wednesday embarked on a months-long, painstaking process of bringing its newly launched James Webb Space Telescope into focus, a task due for...
NASA begins process of bringing new space telescope into focus © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The James Webb Space Telescope is packed up for shipment to its launch site in Kourou, French Guiana in an undated photograph at Northrop Grumman's Space Park in Redondo Beach, California. NASA/Chris Gunn/Handout via REUTERS

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) - NASA on Wednesday embarked on a months-long, painstaking process of bringing its newly launched James Webb Space Telescope into focus, a task due for completion in time for the revolutionary eye in the sky to begin peering into the cosmos by early summer.

Mission control engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, began by sending their initial commands to tiny motors called actuators that slowly position and fine-tune the telescope's principal mirror.

Consisting of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-plated beryllium metal, the primary mirror measures 21 feet 4 inches (6.5 m) in diameter - a much larger light-collecting surface than Webb's predecessor, the 30-year-old Hubble Space Telescope.

The 18 segments, which had been folded together to fit inside the cargo bay of the rocket that carried the telescope to space, were unfurled with the rest of its structural components during a two-week period following Webb's launch on Dec. 25.

Those segments must now be detached from fasteners that held them in place for the launch and then moved forward half an inch from their original configuration - a 10-day process - before they can be aligned to form a single, unbroken, light-collecting surface.

The alignment will take an additional three months, Lee Feinberg, the Webb optical telescope element manager at Goddard, told Reuters by telephone.

Aligning the primary mirror segments to form one large mirror means each segment "is aligned to one-five-thousandth the thickness of a human hair", Feinberg said.

"All of this required us to invent things that had never been done before," such as the actuators, which were built to move incrementally at -400 Fahrenheit (-240 Celsius) in the vacuum of space, he added.

The telescope's smaller, secondary mirror, designed to direct light collected from the primary lens into Webb's camera and other instruments, must also be aligned to operate as part of a cohesive optical system.

If all goes as planned, the telescope should be ready to capture its first science images in May, which would be processed over about another month before they can be released to the public, Feinberg said.

The $9-billion telescope, described by NASA as the premier space-science observatory of the next decade, will mainly view the cosmos in the infrared spectrum, allowing it to gaze through clouds of gas and dust where stars are being born. Hubble has operated primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.

Webb is about 100 times more powerful than Hubble, enabling it to observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back in time, than Hubble or any other telescope.

Astronomers say this will bring into view a glimpse of the cosmos never previously seen - dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set in motion the expansion of the observable universe an estimated 13.8 billion years ago.

The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies. Northrop Grumman Corp (NYSE:NOC) was the primary contractor.

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17-01-2022 19:53:14 (UTC+7)

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 EUR/USD1.1415↑ Buy
 GBP/USD1.3655Neutral
 USD/JPY114.53↑ Buy
 AUD/USD0.7216↑ Buy
 USD/CAD1.2504↑ Sell
 EUR/JPY130.74↑ Buy
 EUR/CHF1.0428Buy
 Gold1,819.55↑ Buy
 Silver23.058↑ Buy
 Copper4.4365↑ Buy
 Crude Oil WTI83.64↑ Sell
 Brent Oil86.54↑ Sell
 Natural Gas4.267↑ Buy
 US Coffee C239.65↑ Buy
 Euro Stoxx 504,302.14↑ Sell
 S&P 5004,662.85↑ Buy
 DAX15,933.72↑ Sell
 FTSE 1007,611.23↑ Buy
 Hang Seng24,218.03↑ Buy
 Small Cap 20002,161.55↑ Buy
 IBEX 358,838.70↑ Sell
 BASF68.140Neutral
 Bayer52.82↑ Buy
 Allianz227.05↑ Buy
 Adidas252.65↑ Buy
 Lufthansa7.241↑ Sell
 Siemens AG146.00Neutral
 Deutsche Bank AG12.018↑ Buy
Mua/Bán 1 chỉ SJC
# So hôm qua # Chênh TG
SJC Eximbank6,120/ 6,160
(0/ 0) # 1,148
SJC HCM6,110/ 6,170
(0/ 0) # 1,158
SJC Hanoi6,110/ 6,172
(0/ 0) # 1,160
SJC Danang6,110/ 6,172
(0/ 0) # 1,160
SJC Nhatrang6,110/ 6,172
(0/ 0) # 1,160
SJC Cantho6,110/ 6,172
(0/ 0) # 1,160
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