(RTTNews) – NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope was launched from French Guiana, with Advanced Camera from Lockheed Martin. Webb’s primary imager will help it see some of the oldest light in the universe, Lockheed Martin said in a statement.
The James Webb Space Telescope is a space telescope developed by NASA with contributions from the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. It is planned to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship mission in astrophysics.
The telescope is designed to provide improved infrared resolution and sensitivity over Hubble, and will enable a broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology, including observing some of the most distant events and objects in the universe, such as the formation of the first galaxies, and providing detailed atmospheric characterization of potentially habitable exoplanets.
The Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) is Webb’s primary imager and one of the most sensitive infrared cameras ever built. As the telescope sets itself up in space, NIRCam will help align Webb’s intricate array of mirrors. It will then take science images throughout the entire mission, Lockheed Martin said.
Webb is designed to peer at the universe’s oldest light, which scientists believe occurred around 13.5 billion years ago. As the universe expands, those light waves that were once visible have now shifted into the infrared spectrum.
This light is incredibly far away and extremely dim, which is why Webb requires large mirrors – along with NIRCam’s ultra-precise optics – to see it.
Before that can happen, NIRCam’s first job is to sense incoming infrared light and take images that will help the telescope’s systems properly align its 18 primary mirror segments. This is critical to ensuring Webb provides crystal clear images once it enters science mode.