The James Webb Space Telescope is halfway to testing its instruments for scientific operations, which are expected to begin in mid-July.
The James Webb Space Telescope is equipped with four cutting-edge instruments that will allow the $ 10 billion observatory to see and study the most distant and oldest galaxies that formed in the early universe just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. their chemical composition. These instruments have 17 scientific modes in between, and each scientific mode must be tested before the telescope can begin scientific operations in mid-July.
“As of today, 7 of Webb’s 17 instruments are ready for science,” NASA said said on Twitter (opens in a new section) Friday (June 17).
“Every regime has a set of observations and analyzes that need to be tested,” said Jonathan Gardner, deputy senior scientist on the James Webb Space Telescope Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a May 12 blog post. “Some modes will not be tested until the end of commissioning,”
A detailed checklist of the tool mode is also available on the agency’s website “Where is Webb”.
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The Web has four main tools, each of which can observe the universe in several modes, ranging from time series observations to observing multiple stars and galaxies simultaneously.
Gardner said that for each of the 17 regimes, the team has chosen a “representative exemplary scientific goal” to be observed in the first year of Webb’s scientific operations, called Cycle 1.
“These are just examples,” Gardner added. “Each mode will be used for many purposes and most Webb scientific purposes will be monitored with more than one tool and / or mode.”
The full list of Cycle 1 observations is available on this website (opens in a new section) from the Baltimore Space Telescope Science Institute, which manages Webb’s operations. The research covers the Web’s main scientific goals, which include everything from exploring very early galaxies to exploring planets, moons, asteroids and other objects in our solar system.
The telescope is at the beginning of the commissioning period before the expected release of the first operational images on July 12. (Webb employees still keep these first image goals a secret.)
Space Web Telescope Tools
Near the infrared camera (NIRCAM):
NIRCam will be crucial to achieving Webb’s flagship goal: discovering light from the earliest stars and galaxies. This is not just an ordinary infrared camera, but it comes with some additional tools called coronagraphs. Coronographs will allow astronomers to block a star’s light and watch what is happening around it, making it great for detecting orbital exoplanets.
Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec):
NIRSpec is the main tool for breaking the chemistry of the universe. He will divide the light coming from the distant universe into spectra, revealing the properties of the observed objects, including their temperature, mass and chemical composition.
Because some of these objects are extremely distant and the light coming from them will be extremely dim, the James Webb Space Telescope, despite its giant mirror, will have to stare at them for hundreds of hours. To make these observations more effective, NIRSPec will be able to observe 100 such distant galaxies simultaneously.
“It basically allows you to open small doors and let in light from one galaxy, but then block all the light from everything else,” McCogreen said. “But you can open 100 doors at once, for example. So it’s very complicated and it’s never flown into space.”
Medium Infrared Instrument (MIRI):
MIRI is a combination of camera and spectrograph, but unlike the previous two, it observes in the longer wavelengths of the middle infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, which will make it a tool for anyone who wants to study everything from comets and asteroids in the outskirts of the solar system to newborn stars and distant galaxies. MIRI images will be closest to those that made the Hubble Space Telescope a legend.
Fine direction sensor / near infrared image and slotless spectrograph (FGS / NIRISS):
FGS / NIRISS will also contribute to the discovery of the first light, point exoplanets and will analyze their chemistry.