Three of the four instruments on NASA’s Webb Telescope are ready for science

This commissioning test image is a subset of a multi-object NIRSpec spectroscopic exposure of a region near the center of our Milky Way galaxy. NIRSpec’s two detectors and its microshutter arrays were used to pack more than 200 spectra into a single exposure. Each horizontal band is a spectrum that scientists will be able to analyze to better understand the composition and properties of the gas found between the stars in that region—for example, by examining emission lines that appear in small, brighter, slightly inclined vertical lines in these spectra. Sincerely, NASA/ESA/CSA and the NIRSpec team

Three of the four science instruments on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope have completed their commissioning activities and are ready for science.

Each of Webb’s instruments has multiple modes of operation that must be tested, calibrated, and ultimately verified before they can begin conducting science. The latest instrument to complete this process, the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, or NIRSpec, has four key modes that the team has officially confirmed are ready to go.

“We’ve done it: NIRSpec is ready for science! This is an amazing moment, the result of the hard work of so many people and teams at JWST and NIRSpec over more than two decades. I’m so proud of everyone,” said Pierre Ferwit, Webb Project Scientist with ESA (European Space Agency) and NIRSpec Principal Investigator. “Now is the time for science, and I can’t wait to see the first scientific results coming from the NIRSpec observations.” I have no doubt they will be fantastic. A big thank you to everyone who has made this possible over the years – great job!”

The last mode checked for NIRSpec was the multi-object spectroscopy mode, a key capability that allows Webb to capture spectra, or arcs of infrared light, from hundreds of different space targets at once. In multi-object spectroscopy mode, NIRSpec can individually open and close about 250,000 tiny shutters, all about the width of a human hair, to see some parts of the sky while blocking out others. By controlling this “micro-gated array,” Webb can monitor multiple specific targets while reducing interference from others.

Confirmation of NIRSpec’s multi-object spectroscopy mode marks the first time this capability has been confirmed for use from space. This will allow NIRSpec to characterize everything from the faintest objects in the universe to the formation of galaxies and star clusters.

NIRSpec was built for ESA by a consortium of European companies led by Airbus Defense and Space, with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, providing its detector and microjail subsystems.

Of a total of 17 instrument modes in Webb’s four instruments, only one mode remains to be verified, the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). When the team confirms this remaining regimen, the months-long process of preparing Webb for science will officially be complete.

Webb’s commissioning process culminated on July 12 with the release of the telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data and the official start of its science mission.


Webb’s NIRISS instrument is ready to see the cosmos in more than 2,000 infrared colors


Quote: Three of NASA’s Webb Telescope’s Four Instruments Ready for Science (2022 July 8) Retrieved July 8, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-instruments-nasa-webb -telescope-ready.html

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