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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope passes a crucial milestone before commissioning

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NASA's James Webb Space Telescope passes a crucial milestone before commissioning

A great day for space exploration is approaching. On July 12, NASA will publish the first images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). In anticipation of this long-awaited day, the JWST team meticulously followed a schedule of 17 equipment checkpoints. A crucial step was taken last week with the calibration of the NIRSpec, one of James Webb’s four onboard scientific instruments. ”
We can’t wait to see the first scientific observations from NIRSpec arrive this summer!
commented the JWST team

The JWST is made up of four scientific instruments, each contributing to the 17 checkpoints described by NASA. This equipment relies on some kind of infrared light detection to study a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that is invisible to human eyes.


Studying the intensity or brightness of light across wavelengths can provide key diagnostic information about the nature of various objects in the universe.
,
from exoplanets around distant stars, to faint galaxies at the edge of the universe, to objects in our own solar system
“, Explain the experts of the JWST.

The NIRCam near infrared camera will have the mission to detect and visualize the cosmos as it was at the beginning of time. ” If the NIRCam doesn’t work, the telescope doesn’t work it simply sums up Alison Nordt, director of space science and instrumentation at aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, who was involved in the development of the JWST.


A comparison of the visible and infrared views of the Monkey Head Nebula taken by the Hubble telescope. Hubble’s infrared capabilities pale in comparison to James Webb’s. © NASA, Esa

Then there is the Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI, which features both a camera and a spectrograph designed to dissect objects illuminated by light in the mid-infrared electromagnetic region. the Near infrared imager and gapless spectrographor NIRISS, is essentially a tool for hunting exoplanets.

The JWST also incorporates a navigation system, called a fine guidance sensor, which helps the telescope not get lost. And finally, the star of NASA’s latest update is the Near Infrared Spectrograph, or NIRSpec.

What is the NIRSpec?


The Near Infrared Spectrograph is the instrument of the Webb telescope that observes the spectra of astrophysical and planetary objects at wavelengths of the near infrared
», Details the JWST team. By observing infrared light from early stars and galaxies, the telescope could help scientists deepen their knowledge of the origins of the universe.


Alison Nordt, an engineer at Lockheed Martin, works on Webb’s NIRCam. © Lockheed Martin

As for target acquisition, the JWST team says the NIRSpec has a mirror that can place cosmic targets in the appropriate position as the telescope scans. This is critical because this information helps the NIRSpec spectrograph know where to look. To do this, the mirror has two techniques:Acquisition of the target of the opening (WATA) and Target acquisition based on micro-shutter assembly (MSATA).


A simulation of the NIRSpec MSA based target acquisition process. The instrument uses “reference stars” which can be seen here, viewed through fixed slits in the device. © NASA, ESA, NIRSpec team

WATA is the acquisition of large aperture targets while MASATA is based on the assembly of micro-shutter. During testing, the team said WATA behaved ” excellent and that MSATA has made solid progress.

Now that NASA has passed these milestones, there are only seven more checkpoints to complete before arriving on July 12 for the first big moment of James Webb’s mission.

CNET.com article adapted from CNETFrance

Image: Conceptual imaging laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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