NASA promises James Webb Space Telescope commissioning update Monday

NASA’s massive new observatory is inching ever closer to science work.

Since its launch Dec. 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope has been focused on deploying and aligning its complicated equipment. Commissioning has been going well so far for the $10 billion observatory, which demonstrated its ability to take sharp images of distant stars in late April as it completed mirror alignment.

Now, NASA and its partners on the project will offer an update on the observatory’s current status and next milestones. The news conference will occur on Monday (May 9) at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT). You can listen to live on Space.com courtesy of the agency or directly through the NASA website.

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The next major thermal testing phase involves deliberately swinging the telescope between hotter and colder conditions to see how well the infrared instruments and mirrors respond to temperature changes. 

But the main focus for the next two months, NASA officials said, would be testing the observatory’s five science instruments. That work includes assessing the sensitivity and sharpness of the instruments and testing specific observation modes, according to NASA.

The observatory is targeting a June start to operational science as it seeks to understand more about the early universe, exoplanets and other cosmic objects.

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Participants in the press conference will include:

Michael McElwain, Webb observatory project scientist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight CenterChristopher Evans, Webb project scientist, European Space AgencyJean Dupuis, space astronomy senior mission scientist, Canadian Space AgencyMarcia Rieke, principal investigator for Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera and regents professor of astronomy, University of ArizonaKlaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist, Space Telescope Science Institute

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

Source: space.com

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