Colorado engineers played role in new NASA telescope images

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BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — By now, you’ve probably seen the tantalizing images from the James Webb Space Telescope, offering the deepest look of the cosmos ever captured. 

The images offer a glimpse into the farthest humanity has ever seen in both time and distance, with some light believed to be from 13.8 billion years ago. The release was an emotional one for employees at Ball Aerospace in Boulder. 

“People were clapping and sharing memories and thoughts, and asking, ‘When can I get these printed to put them on my wall?’” Dr. Sarah Lipscy said.

Lipscy works in Civil Space at Ball Aerospace, which helped design the 18 gold segments that form the telescope’s mirror.

At 21 feet, it’s by far the largest and most sensitive mirror ever sent into space. But even after launch, Lipscy said Ball Aerospace has continued to play a major role in capturing the images. 

This image released by NASA on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, shows the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on the James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals previously obscured areas of star birth, according to NASA. (NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI via AP)

“Once the observatory was on orbit, our engineers here at Ball worked very carefully with the science community to align the telescope and make sure that every segment was perfect, and all the segments were aligned,” Lipscy said.

After decades of working on the project, she said the first photos are a validation of the work that was done. But she said studying the photos will be even more enjoyable.

“We’re going to learn a lot about galaxy evolution,” she said. “We’re going to think about what kinds of stars are in those galaxies. Are they all like ours? Do those stars have planets like ours does? And do those planets have humans, creatures, like ours does? So, the really big questions.”


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