New Video Brings Webb Telescope's Third Mirror to Light
The video called, "Third Light's the Charm" is part of an on-going video series about the Webb telescope called "Behind the Webb." The video, produced by Mary Estacion from the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., takes viewers behind the scenes with scientists and engineers who are creating the Webb telescope's components.
Before light from the universe reaches the James Webb Space Telescope's cameras and science instruments, it will reflect off four different mirrors -- the primary, secondary, tertiary and fine-steering mirrors. The light's third stop along its zigzagging path is the tertiary mirror, housed within the Aft Optics Subsystem at the center of Webb's 21-foot primary mirror. Mary Estacion visits Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, to learn about the tertiary mirror's role and to see how the mirror's optics are being tested.
Credit: Space Telescope Science Institute
› Download video
› Video transcript (pdf)
The 2 minute, 41 second video takes viewers to Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colo., where Koby Smith, Aft Optics Subsystem Integrated Product Team lead, explains how light is manipulated with the Webb mirrors to get a clearer understanding of the object being focused upon.
Webb's coated flight tertiary mirror. Dan
Patriarca, president of Quantum Coating
Incorporated, is in the photo.
Credit: Ben Gallagher (Ball Aerospace)
and Quantum Coating Incorporated
› Larger image
"The tertiary mirror is approximately a meter wide and is designed to accept the light from many field points and relay them through the fine steering mirror to the instruments," said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element Manager for the Webb telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
Smith explained, "The light from an object reflects off the primary mirror, the secondary mirror, into the Aft Optics Subsystem's aperture, and off the tertiary and fine steering mirrors, before entering the science instruments in the back of the telescope." The Aft Optics Subsystem sits in the middle of all of those mirrors.
All the mirrors are made of a light metal called beryllium which is very strong for its weight and holds its shape across a range of temperatures.
Estacion also takes viewers into the optical test tent within a clean room for a look at the tertiary mirror. She and Smith explain the process it still needs to go through to be ready for flight on the Webb telescope.
This image shows the four types of
mirrors on the Webb telescope. From
left to right are: a primary mirror
segment, the secondary mirror, tertiary
mirror and the fine steering mirror. The
bottom right shows an artist's conception
of the Webb telescope optics with its 18
primary mirror segments. On the bottom
row are the three mirror segments shown
on the same scale and seen from the rear
to illustrate the honeycomb structure
that makes this mirrors both very light
and mechanically stiff.
Credit: NASA/Ball Aerospace/Tinsley
› Larger image
Estacion explains that there are more steps in the preparation of the tertiary mirror including vibration and thermal testing before being integrated with the rest of the telescope.
The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. As the most powerful space telescope ever built, Webb will observe the most distant objects in the universe, provide images of the first galaxies ever formed and see unexplored planets around distant stars. The Webb telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
The "Behind the Webb" video series is available in HQ, large and small Quicktime formats, HD, Large and Small WMV formats, and HD, Large and Small Xvid formats.
› The "Behind the Webb" series
› About the Webb mirrors' golden coating
› More about Webb's mirrors
› NASA's Webb telescope website
› Webb telescope project website
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.