Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Color it ready -- Webb Telescope instrument now at Goddard

The cosmos is filled with color, and color is a key in determining age, chemical composition and how far objects are from Earth.

To help identify these colors and objects the James Webb Space Telescope will be using a spectrograph called NIRSpec. Recently, the engineering test unit for the Webb telescope's Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. from its manufacturer in Germany for preliminary testing.

"A spectrograph is an instrument that separates light into a spectrum," said Bernie Rauscher of NASA Goddard. "One example of a spectrograph that most folks know about is a chandelier (or diamond ring). When sunlight shines through it, it breaks it up into colors. NIRSpec analyzes those colors from deep space to help us solve mysteries." Rauscher is the Principal Investigator for the NIRSpec Detector Subsystem and the Deputy Project Scientist of the Webb's Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM).

The NIRSpec instrument will be the principal spectrographic instrument on-board the Webb telescope.

The components that make up NIRSpec will be sensitive to infrared wavelengths from the most distant galaxies and will be capable of obtaining spectra of more than 100 objects in the cosmos simultaneously. Determining an object's spectra is important, because it will help scientists determine the age, chemical composition and distances of faint galaxies. These measurements are key to unraveling the history of galaxy formation in the early Universe - one of the primary science goals of the Webb mission.

One unique technology in the NIRSpec that enables it to obtain those 100 simultaneous spectra is a micro-electromechanical system called a "microshutter array." NIRSpec's microshutter cells, each approximately as wide as a human hair, have lids that open and close when a magnetic field is applied. Each cell can be controlled individually, allowing it to be opened or closed to view or block a portion of the sky. It is this adjustability that allows the instrument to do spectroscopy on so many objects simultaneously. Because the objects NIRSpec will be looking at are so far away and so faint, the instrument needs a way to block out the light of nearer bright objects. Microshutters operate similarly to people squinting to focus on an object by blocking out interfering light.

NASA Goddard has a lot invested in the NIRSpec. Goddard built NIRSpec's detector and microshutter systems. EADS/Astrium is the European Space Agency's (ESA) prime contractor for the overall NIRSpec instrument. The prototype instrument was integrated and tested at Astrium's facility in Munich, Germany, before being shipped to Goddard.

Now that it has arrived at Goddard, the NIRSpec engineering test unit will go through pre-integration testing with the ISIM, which acts as a "chassis" to the Webb telescope observatory. Along with the other instruments, NIRSpec will be fitted into the ISIM, which is also currently at Goddard. The engineering test unit reproduces the physical, thermal, electrical and optical (up to the Micro-Shutter Array unit) properties of the flight model.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the next-generation premier space observatory, exploring deep space phenomena from distant galaxies to nearby planets and stars. The Webb Telescope will give scientists clues about the formation of the universe and the evolution of our own solar system, from the first light after the Big Bang to the formation of star systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth.

The Webb Telescope project is managed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, and will launch in 2014.

For information about NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, visit:

For more information about the NIRSpec, visit:

For more information, visit the NIRSpec website at the Space Telescope Science Institute:

Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>