Observing the universe in the infrared light portion of the spectrum is important because many objects scientists want to observe in space are far too cold to radiate at shorter wavelengths that can be seen as visible light, but they radiate strongly in infrared light.
The Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) is one of four sophisticated instruments onboard the Webb telescope 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.
Speaking at the 3rd Appleton Space Conference on Dec. 6, European Consortium Lead for MIRI, Dr. Gillian Wright from the U.K. Astronomy Technology Centre (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."
MIRI's development is an effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena (JPL), Calif, leads the NASA effort and is responsible for the development of MIRI's detectors, its cryocooler, and flight software.
MIRI has already undergone alignment checks with a piece of test equipment simulating the Integrated Science Instrument Module, the part of the spacecraft where the MIRI will be attached. This test equipment was supplied by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., who is leading the development of the Webb observatory.
MIRI is the first of the Webb telescope instruments to reach this phase of cryogenic performance testing and marks a significant milestone for this international team.
"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 JPL are integrated and tested in full," says Matt Greenhouse, Integrated Science Instrument Module scientist on the Webb Telescope project at NASA Goddard. This involves thermal and electromagnetic calibration and scientific and environmental testing.
Dr. Tanya Lim, who leads the 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 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."
During spring 2008, further testing will take place using the MIRI Telescope Simulator -- a special facility being built in Spain. This simulator is unique to MIRI and will be able to simulate the stars that will be seen.
The James Webb Space Telescope is a 21st century space observatory that will peer back more than 13 billion years in time to understand the formation of galaxies, stars and planets and the evolution of our own solar system. It is expected to launch in 2013. The telescope is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences