When the James Webb Space Telescope launches into space in 2018, it will be on its way to helping humans see further into the ancient universe than ever before. But it is already helping humans to see better through a slew of improvements in measurement technologies that are vastly improving the optometrist’s toolkit. The same sensing technology--called “wavefront imaging”--used to image and refine the telescope’s 18 primary mirrors is enabling ophthalmologists to measure aberrations in the human eye with unprecedented accuracy.
Those measurements are in turn improving the diagnosis and research of ocular ailments, making laser eye surgeries more effective, and influencing the design of new contact lenses. For the hundreds of millions of Americans wearing corrective lenses (and the many millions more born with eyes), the JWST is providing better optical health, which we’ll need when the biggest and baddest space telescope the universe has ever known begins beaming back beautiful imagery of the deep cosmos later this decade.