The Hot and Cold of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

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The optical alignment of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has been completed, and we are now in the final stages of commissioning the Science Instruments.

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The Webb team and instrument scientists will test all four science instruments' modes and operations during this final phase in order to assess their performance

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The Webb team is preparing for the thermal stability test while the mirrors of the Webb Telescope steadily cool to their ultimate working temperatures

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 We asked Erin Smith, Webb deputy observatory project scientist, about the highs and lows of this experiment.

Webb has two sides, divided by its sunshield: a hot side facing the Sun and Earth, and a cold side facing out into space, away from the Sun and Earth

The solar panels, communications antenna, navigation system, and electronic systems reside on the hot side facing the Sun and Earth

The mirrors and scientific instruments, which are very sensitive to infrared radiation, are housed on the cold side

"The five-layer sunshield on Webb keeps the telescope and science instruments cool and safe from the Sun, Earth, and moon

Webb can now make measurements of the infrared universe, which necessitates the use of a cold telescope and cold instrument optics

The angle of the Sun on the sunshade changes as Webb aims to different targets throughout the sky, changing the thermal profile of the observatory

Tiny changes in temperature can impact Webb's optical quality, aiming, observed backgrounds, and other characteristics, causing small changes in the observatory.

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