Six months have passed since a European rocket blasted the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit. Since that time, the ultra-complex telescope has successfully unfolded its expansive sunshield, commissioned its science instruments, and reached an observation point more than 1 million km from Earth.
This white-knuckle period in space followed nearly two decades of effort to design, build, and test the telescope on Earth prior to its launch on Christmas Day, 2021. But now, all of that effort is in the rearview mirror, and Webb's massive 6.5-meter diameter mirror is gazing outward and collecting scientific data and images.
It is the largest and most powerful telescope that humans have ever put into space, and it's already revealing new insights about our cosmos.
"The images are being taken right now," said Thomas Zurbuchen, who leads NASA's scientific programs. "There is already some amazing science in the can, and some others are yet to be taken as we go forward. We are in the middle of getting the history-making data down."
The good news for the rest of us is that NASA says it plans to release several images beginning on 12 July, the result of Webb's "first light" observations. Space agency officials say the images and other data would include the deepest-field image of the universe ever taken - looking further into the cosmos than humans ever have before.
NASA's deputy administrator, Pam Melroy, said she was blown away by the images Webb has produced so far. "What I have seen moved me, as a scientist, as an engineer, and as a human being," she said.
OGN looks forward to publishing Webb's images in a couple of weeks time.
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