The toughest bit, though seems past: successfully unfolding the entire mirror of the Webb Space Telescope was the most delicate of all its operations, since nothing could fail without endangering the scope’s usefulness. And nothing did! NASA has reported, along with many other sites, that the main mirror deployment is, as they say, “nominal.” From Space.com:
JWST’s golden primary mirror includes 18 individual hexagonal segments, each controlled by seven actuators that allow precise movements. All 18 segments are now in their deployed positions several days sooner than scheduled.
Work began on the mirror segments on Jan. 12 and was expected to take about 10 days. But despite today’s announcement, those mirror segments aren’t quite ready to observe yet. First, NASA must conduct the painstaking process of fine-tuning every mirror’s position to turn 18 individual views of the universe into one large ultra-powerful mirror.
The team behind Webb expects that the entire mirror process will take about three months, all told.
Here’s a NASA video of the immensely complicated process of aligning all the mirrors once they’ve unfolded. I have faith in the Telescope Humans that all will be well.
If this works okay, and nothing else goes wrong, in a few months the scope will be in position and ready to send data. There is one more important maneuver:
Webb has one more key deployment milestone to complete, a trajectory burn that will insert the observatory into orbit around a spot in space dubbed the Earth-sun Lagrange point 2, or L2. L2 is located nearly 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth, on the side of the planet opposite the sun.
According to a NASA timeline, JWST is expected to complete this final arrival maneuver on Sunday (Jan. 23).