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NASA promises James Webb Space Telescope commissioning update today

NASA's massive new observatory is inching ever closer to science work.

Since its launch Dec. 25, 2021, the James Webb Space Telescope has been focused on deploying and aligning its complicated equipment. Commissioning has been going well so far for the $10 billion observatory, which demonstrated its ability to take sharp images of distant stars in late April as it completed mirror alignment.

Now, NASA and its partners on the project will offer an update on the observatory's current status and next milestones. The news conference will occur on Monday (May 9) at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT). You can listen to live on Space.com in the box above courtesy of the agency or directly through the NASA website (opens in new tab).

Live updates: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope mission
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The next major thermal testing phase involves deliberately swinging the telescope between hotter and colder conditions to see how well the infrared instruments and mirrors respond to temperature changes. 

But the main focus for the next two months, NASA officials said, would be testing the observatory's five science instruments. That work includes assessing the sensitivity and sharpness of the instruments and testing specific observation modes, according to NASA (opens in new tab).

The observatory is targeting a June start to operational science as it seeks to understand more about the early universe, exoplanets and other cosmic objects.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to see the first stars and galaxies that emerged in the universe after the Big Bang. (Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

Participants in the press conference will include:

  • Michael McElwain, Webb observatory project scientist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Christopher Evans, Webb project scientist, European Space Agency
  • Jean Dupuis, space astronomy senior mission scientist, Canadian Space Agency
  • Marcia Rieke, principal investigator for Webb's Near-Infrared Camera and regents professor of astronomy, University of Arizona
  • Klaus Pontoppidan, Webb project scientist, Space Telescope Science Institute

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Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc (opens in new tab). in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.