With the Main JWST Mirror Completed, Scientists Focus On How To Best and Most Fairly Use It Once In Space8 Nov 2016, 18:35 UTC
Engineers conduct a white light inspection on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in the clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. (NASA/Chris Gunn)
Recent word that the giant mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope is essentially complete is a cause for celebration, a milestone in the long march toward launching what will be the most powerful astronomical instrument ever. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden made the announcement at the Goddard Space Flight Center, with senior project scientist John Mather declaring that “we’re opening up a whole new territory of astronomy.”
Although liftoff isn’t scheduled until two years from now, the mirror’s completion has led to an intensifying of the far less public but also essential task of determining how precisely the JWST will be used.
This is a major issue because the observatory will be far more complicated with many more moving parts for astronomers than the Hubble Space Telescope and other predecessors, and a significant amount of the learning about how to make observations can’t be done until JWST is already in space.
But more pressing still is the fact that “JW” (as it is now commonly called) will fly for a limited time, and as ...