(NEXSTAR) – Do you remember seeing your first star? Or take your first selfie? Maybe not, but NASA’s latest telescope will have images of the former.
The James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest and most powerful, has made its way into its new home last month. It is now 1 million miles from Earth, much farther than NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which was just 340 miles away.
The 7-ton telescope is now floating in space. The web will be used to browse clouds of gas and dust to see things in a much greater distance – light that dates back to the formation of the first stars and galaxies 13.7 billion years ago. The new tool will also scan the atmosphere of distant worlds for possible signs of life.
Last week, Webb spotted his first star – 18 times – and took his first selfie.
Webb has almost completed its first phase of a months-long process of aligning its main mirror. To do this, it uses a near-infrared camera or NIRCam device. NASA explains that after they were confident that NIRCam was ready to collect stellar light from celestial objects, it had to identify light from the same star in each of the 18 mirror segments.
NASA has focused on the star HB 84406, which is near the Big Dipper, also known as the Big Dipper. Because the main segments of the mirror are not aligned, Webb has created 18 separate images of the same star.
While this may look like just a blurry photo of some of the lights, NASA says the mosaic below is crucial to getting the Web aligned and focused. Once this is completed, expected in the summer, Webb will be able to give an “unprecedented view of the universe”.
Creating a mosaic was also not a quick process. It began on February 2, when the Web was redirected to 156 different positions, resulting in 1,560 images and 54 gigabytes of raw data. In total, Webb took almost 25 hours to complete its task. The images were then linked to create a large mosaic of more than 2 billion pixels. The photo above is only the central part of the whole mosaic.
In addition to the unusual mosaic, Webb was also able to take selfies. Using a specialized lens to visualize the pupils, the telescope captured the image below.
Noticed one hexagon that is white instead of gray? This segment reflects starlight, Lee Feinberg, Webb Optical Telescope Element Manager explains. Webb’s ability to take selfies serves a greater purpose than getting likes in a telescope Instagram – NASA relies on this function in “engineering purposes and alignment.”
In the coming months, Webb will be able to take clearer and more detailed pictures. Three other instruments have not yet reached cryogenic operating temperatures and are not collecting data. NASA expects Webb to take his first scientific images this summer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.