Even while construction of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is underway on the most advanced infrared vision of any space observatory, its technologies are already proving useful to human eye health here on Earth. The JWST program has enabled a number of improvements in measurement technology for human eyes, diagnosis of ocular diseases, and potentially improved surgery.

Image of the Scanning Shack Hartmann System (SSHS), a pair of large mirror test stations used to measure the mirror segments of the JWST. As part of that program, several improvements were made to the wavefront sensor technology that now allow eye health instruments to be aligned more precisely. (Abbott Medical Optics Inc.)
Advanced wavefront sensing technology developed for testing the telescope’s 18 primary mirrors led to the new applications in other areas. Wavefront sensing is used to measure shape of the mirrors during fabrication and control the optics once the telescope is in orbit. Ophthalmologists routinely use wavefront technology to measure aberrations of the eye. A new “scanning and stitching” technology developed for the JWST led to a number of instrument concepts for more accurate measurement for contact lenses and intra-ocular lenses. Another benefit to eye health is that this technique can help “map” the topography of the eye more accurately.

NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program Office (IPPO) is making available wavefront sensing and adaptive optics technologies, procedures, and lab equipment to private industry through its “Can you See it Now?” campaign. All of the technologies associated with the campaign are available for licensing and can be found at http://ipp.gsfc.nasa.gov/wavefront.

Visit www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/webb-eyes.html for more information and to watch a video of the JWST.

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