The James Webb Space Telescope is halfway through testing its instrument modes for science operations, expected to begin in mid-July.
The James Webb Space Telescope is equipped with four advanced instruments, making the $10 billion observatory the most distant, oldest galaxiesoccurring in the early universe only a few hundred million years after the big bangand study their chemical composition. These instruments have 17 science modes, and each science mode must be tested before the telescope can begin science operations in mid-July.
“As of today, 7 of Webb’s 17 instrument modes are ready for science,” says NASA said on Twitter (opens in new tab) Friday (June 17).
“Each mode has a set of observations and analysis that needs to be verified,” explains Jonathan Gardner, James Webb Space Telescope’s deputy senior project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in a statement. blog post on May 12. “Some modes are only verified at the end of commissioning”,
A detailed instrument mode “check-off” list is also available on the “Where’s Webb” agency webpage†
Live updates: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Mission
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Webb has four main instruments, each of which can observe the universe in different modes, ranging from time series observations to the simultaneous observation of multiple stars and galaxies.
Gardner said the team chose a “representative sample science target” for each of the 17 modes that will be observed during the first year of Webb’s science operations, called Cycle 1.
“These are just examples,” Gardner added. “Each mode will be used for many purposes, and most of Webb’s scientific goals will be observed with more than one instrument and/or mode.”
The full list of observations from cycle 1 is available on this website (opens in new tab) from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which conducts Webb operations. The studies cover Webb’s key scientific goals, covering everything from looking at very early galaxies to investigating planets, moons, asteroids and other objects in our solar system.
The telescope is in the early stages of its commissioning period, ahead of the expected release of the first operational images on July 12. (Webb officials are still) keep those first image goals secret†
James Webb space telescope instruments
The near infrared camera (NIRCAM):
NIRCam will be crucial to achieving Webb’s flagship goal of detecting the light of the earliest stars and galaxies. It is not just a simple infrared camera, but is equipped with some additional instruments called coronagraphs. The coronagraphs allow astronomers to block out a star’s light and see what’s happening around it, making it ideal for discovering orbiting exoplanets.
The Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRSpec):
NIRSpec is the primary tool for cracking the chemistry of the universe. It will split the light 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 far away and the light coming from them will be extremely dim, the James Webb Space Telescope, despite its gigantic mirror, will have to stare at them for hundreds of hours. To make those observations more efficient, NIRSPec will be able to observe 100 such distant galaxies simultaneously.
“It basically lets you open little doors and let the light from one galaxy through, but then block out all the light from everything else,” McCaughrean said. “But you can open 100 doors at once, for example. So that is very advanced and that has never been flown in space.”
The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI):
MIRI is a combination of a camera and spectrograph, but unlike the previous two, it perceives in the longer wavelengths of the mid-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, making it a go-to tool for anyone who wants it all. from comets and asteroids at the edge of the solar system to newborn stars and distant galaxies. The images from MIRI will be most closely related to the images that have made the Hubble Space Telescope a legend.
The fine conduction sensor/near infrared camera and slitless spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS):
FGS/NIRISS will also contribute to the detection of the first light, spot exoplanets and analyze their chemistry.
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