The $10B James Webb telescope sends its first super-sharp image of a star

Engineers and technicians assemble the James Webb Space Telescope November 2, 2016.
Engineers and technicians assemble the James Webb Space Telescope November 2, 2016. Photo credit Alex Wong/Getty Images

The James Webb Space Telescope, which cost a hefty $10 billion, has now reached alignment and taken its first super-sharp image of a bright star.

The stunning image shows that the infrared telescope's optics are working perfectly after decades of development and construction, according to a NASA press release.

The telescope was launched in December and only recently completed its unfolding process in space to begin its designed plan. Now, scientists are saying that all 18 mirror segments are aligned so that they can act as a giant mirror.

Before being aligned, the different mirrors on the telescope acted separately, returning different images of the same star seen in earlier pictures NASA released.

But, now, the mirror segments are working together, resulting in extremely clear photos of galaxies and stars far, far away.

Lee Feinberg, the optical telescope element manager for Webb at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shared that seeing the pictures after years of work was emotional.

"When the first images came down, we were in the mission control center and it was a very emotional moment," Feinberg said. "I'm happy to say that the optical performance of the telescope is absolutely phenomenal. It is really working extremely well."

Feinberg isn't alone in his excitement, as an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Marshall Perrin, shared with NPR what this achievement means. Suffice it to say, it's not just the world's most expensive new iPhone, taking super clear images.

"As we were focusing on those bright stars, we couldn't help but see the rest of the universe coming into focus behind them, to see the more distant stars and galaxies coming into view," Perrin said. "And honestly, the team was giddy at times, just seeing this happen."

The Webb Twitter account shared a video showing just how far telescope technology has come and how clear the photo is.

He went on to say there is no way to look at it "and not be excited about the scientific possibilities that are opening up here."

Several instruments are yet to be set up on the telescope, meaning it has weeks to go until it is fully operational and ready to do science.

However, NASA shared that by this summer, it should be able to gather light that shows how some of the first galaxies looked just a hundred million years after the Big Bang.

The other goal is for scientists to use the telescope to study atmospheres of planets that could have chemical signatures which indicate the presence of life.