Signature Spikes

Nearly a quarter century in the making, I was tremendously excited and relieved last week by the release of the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope. I remember the trials, tribulations, and triumph of the Hubble Space Telescope¬†and am now confident that Webb’s gallery of images and spectra will meet or exceed Hubble’s and begin a new chapter in astronomy.

To distinguish Hubble and Webb images, look for their signature diffraction spikes: Due to their primary mirror shapes and secondary mirror support strut configurations, bright stars in Hubble and Web space telescopes images display distinctive 4 and 6 + 2 = 8 diffraction spikes.

Hubble vs. Webb

Hubble and Webb images of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 with signature diffraction spikes around the bright foreground star

About John F. Lindner

John F. Lindner was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and educated at the University of Vermont and Caltech. He is an emeritus professor of physics and astronomy at The College of Wooster and a visiting professor at North Carolina State University. He has enjoyed multiple yearlong sabbaticals at Georgia Tech, University of Portland, University of Hawai'i, and NCSU. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, celestial mechanics, and neural networks.
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