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UArizona a key to first pictures from new space telescope

Designed camera that got the first images
Posted at 7:44 PM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-12 17:49:24-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A telescope that should see almost to the start of the universe just took its first pictures—with a camera developed at the University of Arizona.

The new space telescope should bring us images even more impressive than the ones beamed down by the Hubble.

But the first light from the Webb was not an awesome glimpse of the wonders of space.

It was an ordinary looking star that was a good choice for adjusting the telescope's 18 mirrors so they produce sharp images for the groundbreaking science to come.

The camera getting that shot was the pay off for decades of work by University of Arizona astronomer Marcia Rieke.

She designed the NIRCam–short for near infrared camera.

“So I came here for my daily console shift on Tuesday. And this place was a giant celebration because the light had made it and we were super-duper happy.”

The Webb will see what our eyes cannot—infrared light. Astronomers say that type of light is the main light that can reach us from the earliest days of the universe.

An international team of scientists and engineers designed and built the telescope and its various instruments. University of Arizona has been a leader in the project. For Marcia Rieke it’s a family affair too. Her husband George Rieke is also an astronomer, and lead researcher on a different camera that should start sending images in a few weeks.

Marcia Rieke says, “I've committed 20 years of my life to this. It is just unbelievably satisfying to know that a wide team, a broadly distributed team across three countries and many people in the US have all come together and made this work.”