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James Webb Telescope adjustments bring stars more into focus

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During this phase of alignment known as image stacking, individual segment images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope are moved so they fall precisely at the center of the field to produce one unified image instead of 18. In this image, all 18 segments are on top of each other. Photo courtesy of NASA<br>
During this phase of alignment known as image stacking, individual segment images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope are moved so they fall precisely at the center of the field to produce one unified image instead of 18. In this image, all 18 segments are on top of each other. Photo courtesy of NASA

Feb. 25 (UPI) -- NASA announced Friday that it completed another step in its alignment process of the new James Webb Space Telescope, bringing its test images more into focus.

The space agency said it completed the second and third of a seven-phase process to bring the telescope's 18 mirrors into proper alignment. NASA said it will now begin making smaller adjustments to the mirrors to make images even more in focus.

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The first image released earlier this month featured a star in the Big Dipper known as HD 84406. Though it was just a single star, because the 18 mirrors are out of alignment, it showed up in the image as 18 separate points of light.

After an initial adjustment, those 18 points of light moved into a hexagonal shape.

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The newest adjustments made Friday, known as the segment alignment and image stacking, scientists were able to stack each of the 18 points of light onto one another to create a unified image of a star -- albeit a fuzzy one.

"We still have work to do, but we are increasingly pleased with the results we're seeing," said Lee Feinberg, optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Years of planning and testing are paying dividends, and the team could not be more excited to see what the next few weeks and months bring."

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NASA said that despite the now-unified image, the 18 mirrors are still acting as 18 small telescopes rather than a single large one. Future adjustments will make the point of light progressively sharper and more focused.

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Out-of-this-world images from space

The International Space Station is pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a flyaround of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on November 8. Photo courtesy of NASA

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