James Webb Telescope (JWST) has finished unfolding its primary mirror, concluding a series of major steps that took place over the course of two weeks. For the massive telescope, which has taken decades to build, to work, all of those deployments had to be perfect.
Infrared light from the distant Universe will be collected by the JWST using two primary mirror panels on either side. The panels are each made up of three gold-plated hexagonal mirrors. Just one day after the leftmost wing was deployed, today the rightmost wing was unfurled successfully. The collection of 18 mirrors that comprise the 21-foot-wide JWST has now been locked into place on both sides.
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Due to its size, the full-sized mirror could not fit on a rocket, so scientists designed it in a way that allowed its components to fold, making JWST's launch possible on Christmas Day. As soon as the JWST reached space, it began the precarious unfolding process. Earlier this week, JWST achieved its most complex task: deploying the sunshield it uses to block sunlight and cool its instruments. After JWST has reached its final form, scientists will have to tweak the mirrors a bit more in order to align them, and they will have to calibrate its instruments to get it ready to uncover the secrets of the Universe.
Approximately two weeks from now, the JWST will reach its final destination in deep space. JWST's first images won't be available until the summer, but it will likely be worth the wait.