MIRI is one of four sophisticated instruments onboard which will study the early universe and properties of materials forming around new born stars in unprecedented detail. It will also be able to image directly massive planets orbiting other stars.
At the heart of the JWST observatory is a large cold telescope whose primary mirror measures 6.5 metres in diameter compared to 2.4 metres for Hubble, providing an enormous increase in capability to investigate the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars and planetary systems. Due for launch in 2013, JWST, which is a joint cooperative mission between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), is optimised to operate over a wide range of infrared wavelengths.
MIRI is the first of the JWST instruments to reach this phase of cryogenic performance testing and marks a significant milestone for this international team, which is funded in the UK by the Science and Technology Facilities Council [STFC] and spread across STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory [RAL], plus team members at Astrium Ltd, and the universities of Leicester and Cardiff .
Speaking at the 3rd Appleton Space Conference today (6th December 2007) European Consortium Lead for MIRI, Dr Gillian Wright MBE from the UK ATC in Edinburgh said, “It is extremely exciting, after working on the project since 1998, to begin to test a complete instrument. This will provide scientists with real data which they can use to understand the best ways of making discoveries with the instrument.”
The testing is being undertaken at the STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire where all MIRI’s subsystems from collaborators in Europe and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab are integrated and tested in full.
This involves thermal and electromagnetic calibration testing along with scientific and environmental testing.
Dr Tanya Lim, who leads the 25 people strong international MIRI testing team explains, “Given the international nature of this project it is essential to bring together both instrument and test equipment components from around the world to ensure that they work together.”
She adds, “We will also be using the instrument flight software which will need to work with the spacecraft and ground software systems in order to command the instrument, simulate telemetry to the ground and generate images from the test environment.”
The MIRI testing team are working around the clock until the completion of the first tests just before Christmas. Paul Eccleston, MIRI Assembly, Integration and Test (AIT) Lead adds, “MIRI is the largest individual flight instrument that has been built at RAL, and has presented unusual challenges particularly with regard to cooling and thermal control. The instrument will operate at temperatures much lower than the rest of the spacecraft. As a result, the first two weeks of testing involved cooling the instrument down to its operational temperature of -267ºC, only 6.2K above absolute zero.”
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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