Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Centre installed the secondary mirror onto NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope on March 3. The secondary mirror will be the second surface the incoming light from cosmic objects will hit on the way into the Webb telescope.
The Webb telescope is the most powerful space telescope created. This will provide the photographs of the first galaxies that ever existed, as well as enable astronomers to investigate the planets around the farthest stars.
The Webb Telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. The James Webb Space Telescope, including the mirrors, is designed to unfold like an origami after its launch because it is too big to fit into a rocket.
The installation was performed by Harris Corporation, a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman. The scientists say the reflective surface needs to bulge toward a light source so they made this mirror convex. Along with all the mirror segments, this is made of beryllium with 0.12 ounces of gold coating. Beryllium is lightweight and stable at extremely low temperatures but is not reflective on its own, hence the gold coating.
Built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, the secondary mirror is supported by three struts that are nearly 25 feet (7.62 metres) long. The struts are hollow tubes, about one millimetre thick, light-weight yet strong enough to handle the extreme temperatures in space.
The James Webb Space Telescope has a total of 21 mirrors, including 18 primary mirror segments. The primary mirror segments make up the 6.5-metre primary mirror that is built to take in the faint light from the oldest and farthest galaxies.
These 18 primary mirror segments compose the biggest mirror on the Webb telescope. Engineers installed these on Feb. 4 at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.