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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

JWST Preps for Its Cameras

By Phil Plait

On the occasion of the recent revealing of the James Webb Space Telescope’s completed golden mirror array, I wrote a post describing the mirror(s) and how they got their golden atomically layered sheen.

Apropos of that, a couple of pretty nifty videos were recently released. Right now, JWST is in the big “clean room” at Goddard Space Flight Center, a huge warehouselike room that is kept almost entirely free of dust and other particulates that might muck up the optical works. There are a couple of webcams installed there (called “Webb cams,” because of course), and they were online when the entire mirror assembly was moved from the horizontal to vertical position. The result is pretty cool, especially when you consider just how big this assembly is: Remember, it’s 6.5 meters across!

I think my favorite part is at the 30-second mark when all the engineers in the bunny suits pose for a snapshot in front of it.

Here it is from another angle. The color is a bit distorted since it’s through a window, but the gold mirrors are still really something.

The reason the mirror was moved into this position is for the next very, very big step in the assembly: Installing the detectors behind the array. As I wrote before, the telescope is set up so that the big primary array collects the light from astronomical sources, reflects it up to a smaller secondary mirror, which in turn reflects that light down through a hole in the primary down into the instruments behind it. Those instruments include cameras and spectroscopes that will capture and dissect the light from distant galaxies, exploding stars, planets around other stars, Kuiper Belt objects in our own solar system, and much, much more.

Launch is planned for 2018, so there’s still plenty of time for assembly. I’m glad to see, after so many years, this whole thing finally coming together.

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