space telescope on test track; early pictures impress

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA’s new space telescope is on the home stretch of testing, with scientific observations expected to begin in July, astronomers said on Monday.

The James Webb Space Telescope returned the latest test images of a neighboring satellite galaxy, and the results are stunning when compared to images taken by NASA’s previous infrared observatory, the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Each of the 18 mirror segments of the new telescope is larger than the individual ones of the spitzer.

“It’s not until you see the kind of image it gives that you really take it in and say ‘Wow!'” said Marcia Rieke of the University of Arizona, senior scientist for Webb’s near-infrared camera. “Just think of what we’re learning to do.”

Launched last December, the $10 billion Webb is the largest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever sent into space. It will be searching for the light emitted by the first stars and galaxies almost 14 billion years ago, and looking for possible signs of life.


Scientists keep the identity of Webb’s first official target a secret.

Located 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth, Webb is believed to be the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope.


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Justin Scacco

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