The James Webb Space Telescope Has Detected Its First Photon

NASA has released the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope, which was developed for a total of 10 billion dollars after 20 years of work, and is claimed to solve the secrets of the universe. After entering its final orbit around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point (L2), which is approximately 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, it detected its first photons. Now, Webb is as close as ever to its primary goal of studying the early universe and capturing stunning photos of deep space, unlike anything we've seen before.

The onboard Near-Infrared Camera, one of four cameras on Webb, confirmed the achievement just a few days after being switched on. Capturing its first photons is a critical step toward full imaging operations. However, the telescope still needs some work to become fully functional; its 18 mirrors are not yet fully aligned.

The first image released by NASA shows 18 white dots on a black background of space. All of these points are actually a distant star. Since the 18 mirrors in the telescope do not work in harmony yet, it gives 18 different images. This first frame will help scientists finish the long mirror alignment process using the telescope's Infrared Camera. "We were delighted to see light enter the NIRCam," said Marcia Rieke, principal investigator of the device and professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona.

As part of the alignment process, the telescope is pointed at a bright, isolated star (HD 84406). The telescope captures a series of images that are then stitched together. At first, each of the 18 mirrors is tilted slightly differently, so there are 18 slightly shifted photos of the same star as you can see above in the picture. Each photo is uniquely out of focus and shifted at first. These initial segment images will inform the scientists here on Earth about moving each mirror.

The James Webb Space Telescope is expected to see the light of the first stars formed after the Big Bang 13.5 billion years ago. The success of the study depends on the infrared sensitivity of the telescope. Therefore, the Webb telescope needs to be kept at an extremely low temperature because otherwise, its infrared rays could suppress the signals it is trying to detect.


Alpartun Günhan