Image Shows James Webb Space Telescope 1 Million Miles From Earth, Surrounded by Stars

An astronomer has captured an image of the James Webb Space Telescope after it reached its destination almost 1 million miles away from Earth.

Webb is currently located at what's known as the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, or L2, having arrived there on Monday. This has been the spacecraft's destination since it was launched from Earth on December 25 last year, and it will now remain there.

Specifically, Webb has been placed in a gentle orbit around the L2 point. The space telescope will now begin gearing up for its first observations.

The below photo of Webb at the L2 point was captured by Gianluca Masi at the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy. It may be hard to make out the spacecraft among the backdrop of stars, but it can be seen as a small white dot in the center of the image, indicated by an arrow.

James Webb Telescope
A photo of the James Webb Space Telescope in space as seen from Earth. The telescope can be seen in the middle of the image indicated by a small arrow. Gianluca Masi/Virtual Telescope Project

The image is the result of a single 300-second exposure collected by a PlaneWave 17" robotic telescope unit, which tracked the telescope across the sky from Earth.

Lagrange points are points in space at which the gravitational pull of large masses and the orbital motion of a spacecraft balance each other out. In other words, a spacecraft sent to a Lagrange point will tend to stay put and only need to use minimal fuel consumption to remain there.

Spacecraft positioned at L2 are "behind" the Earth as viewed by the sun. This position is ideal for astronomy because spacecraft don't have to constantly pass in and out of Earth's shadow, can readily communicate with our planet, and also have a clear view of space.

Webb isn't the only spacecraft to have visited L2. ESA's Planck space observatory was also positioned there, and the Gaia space observatory currently operates there.

On Monday, NASA said that Webb had arrived at its destination after firing the engines for 300 seconds to complete its final course correction.

"Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb's safe arrival at L2 today," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a press release. "We're one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can't wait to see Webb's first new views of the universe this summer!"

Engineers will now prepare Webb for its first operations by painstakingly aligning the telescope's optics very precisely. The process will take around three months.

Webb has been referred to as the successor to the famous Hubble Space Telescope, which has taken some of the most significant space images in history. The new telescope will work by looking at the universe in infrared light, which will allow it to peer deep into space and thus back in time.

James Webb Telescope
An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope in space. The telescope recently arrived at its destination in space known as L2. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Conceptual Image Lab