James Webb Space Telescope as seen from earth

How the James Webb Space Telescope is seen from earth

Last year was super amazing at NASA. NASA conducted several interesting missions like the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the NASA DART mission, and several others. The last month was a very excited and most awaited time for the astronomers and other scientific communities. The James Webb Space Telescope was launched on Christmas Eve. After spending almost 29 days in space, Webb is finally deployed at a point in space which is known as Lagrange point 2 or L2.

The journey was not easy at all. The telescope went several weeks deploying its mirrors, checking each segment, and then steering towards the L2. In fact, at L2 the telescope is going to spend next ten to twenty years exploring the mysteries of the cosmos. According to NASA’s Administrator Bill Nelson and the Chief Science Communications Officer (CSCO) for the JWST project, James Webb Space Telescope will begin collecting light in the summer of 2022.

However, on January 24, Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) pointed its mirrors towards the direction of the James Webb Space Telescope. Finally, VTP gets a chance to see what James Telescope actually looks like from earth. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to see there, other than a bright dot in the night sky shining among billion of stars. It still sounds fascinating as a single dot of brightness being developed by humans is shining among the billions of natural stars and galaxies.

What is VTP?

The Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) is an advanced astronomical service developed in 2006 by the Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory, located in Ceccano, Italy. The VTP consist of two remotely-accessible robotic telescopes, the details:
– The Planewave 17-inch g/6.8 (432/2939 mm) Corrected Dall-Kirkham Astrograph (aka. “Elena”)
– The Celestron 14″-f/8.4 (356/3000 mm) Schmidt-Cassegrain OTA.

Moreover, Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) also offers public online observing sessions, live streams, and expert commentary from their scientific staff. Other than that VTP also conducts public outreach for people living worldwide.

JWST as seen from VTP

As a result, the Image comes from a single 300-second exposure, unfiltered, remotely collected with the “Elena” (PlaneWave 17″+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E). Which is the robotic unit of one of the astronomical units of the Virtual Telescope Project.

In addition to the single image but the robotic telescope tracks the apparent motion of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as indicated by an arrow in the center.

Animation of JWST

Moreover, at the imaging time, JWST was at about 1.4 million km from us and it just reached its final destination. The final point is the L2 (2nd) Lagrangian point of the Earth-Sun system, placing it at a distance of about 1.4 million km (869,920 mi) from Earth. As seen from the Sun, that L2 point is directly behind the Earth.

Moreover, they also did this short animation, where the JWST apparent motion against the stars is well visible.

Below is the podcast from their early January life feed, when they showed JWST live to our followers.

Future of JWST

However, now that the mission is at L2, the mission team at NASA is waiting for the telescope to reach operational temperature. The further step involves the activation of the telescope’s instruments, final testing, and calibration. Barring any issues, NASA is expecting that the James Webb will begin collecting its first light by June 2022. As NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said:

“Webb, welcome home! Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb’s safe arrival at L2 today. We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can’t wait to see Webb’s first new views of the universe this summer!”

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