NASA began months of efforts to complete the commissioning and calibration of the Weber telescope

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5cd5c495897e71c - NASA began months of efforts to complete the commissioning and calibration of the Weber telescope

mission control engineers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center began to send their initial instructions to tiny motors called actuators, which slowly locate and fine tune the telescope’s main mirror. The main mirror consists of 18 hexagonal parts of gold-plated beryllium metal, with a diameter of 6.5 meters (21 feet 4 inches) – much larger than the light collecting surface of Weber’s predecessor, the 30-year-old Hubble telescope

before the launch of the Weber space telescope at Christmas, the 18 parts were folded together to adapt to the cargo compartment of the rocket carrying the telescope into space. Then the 18 hexagonal lenses were unfolded together with the rest of the structural components

these parts must now be removed from the fasteners that secure them for emission, and then move forward about a centimeter from their original configuration — a 10 day process — before they can be aligned to form a single, uninterrupted light collection surface

Lee Feinberg, component manager of Goddard’s Weber optical telescope, said that the alignment will take another three months

Feinberg said that aligning the main mirror segment to form a large mirror means that each mirror segment is “aligned to one 5000 times the thickness of human hair”. “All this requires us to invent something we’ve never done before,” he added For example, actuators are designed to move gradually in a space vacuum of minus 240 degrees Celsius

the smaller secondary mirror of the telescope is designed to guide the light collected from the primary mirror into Weber’s camera and other instruments. It must also complete focusing and operate as part of a cohesive optical system

Feinberg said that if everything goes according to plan, the telescope should be ready to capture its first scientific images in May, which will be processed for about a month before being released to the public

this $9 billion telescope is described by NASA as the most important space science Observatory in the next decade. It will mainly observe the universe in the infrared spectrum, so that it can observe the birth of stars through the clouds of gas and dust. The Hubble telescope operates mainly in the optical and ultraviolet wavelengths

the Weber telescope is about 100 times stronger than Hubble, enabling it to observe celestial bodies at a greater distance than Hubble or any other telescope. Astronomers say this will give people a glimpse of the universe they have never seen before – and is expected to observe the “appearance” of the universe about 13.7 billion years ago

the telescope is an international cooperation led by NASA and in cooperation with European and Canadian space agencies