NASA's James Webb Space Telescope captured this magnificent image during a recent evaluation of the instrument's mirror alignment. According to the researchers, "every optical parameter that has been checked and tested is performing at, or above, expectations."
"While the purpose of this image was to focus on the bright star at the center for alignment evaluation, Webb's optics and NIRCam are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up," NASA reports. "At this stage of Webb's mirror alignment, known as "fine phasing," each of the primary mirror segments have been adjusted to produce one unified image of the same star using only the NIRCam instrument. This image of the star, which is called 2MASS J17554042+6551277, uses a red filter to optimize visual contrast."
Although there are months to go before Webb ultimately delivers its new view of the cosmos, achieving this milestone means the team is confident that Webb's first-of-its-kind optical system is working as well as possible.
"More than 20 years ago, the Webb team set out to build the most powerful telescope that anyone has ever put in space and came up with an audacious optical design to meet demanding science goals," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Today we can say that design is going to deliver."