Three of four NASA Webb Telescope instruments ready for science

This commissioning test image is a subset of a NIRSpec multi-object spectroscopy exposure of a region near the center of our Milky Way galaxy. NIRSpec’s two detectors and its micro-shutter arrays were used to gather more than 200 spectra in a single exposure. Each horizontal band is a spectrum that scientists will be able to analyze to better understand the composition and properties of the gas found between stars in that region, for example, through the study of emission lines that appear at smaller, brighter , slightly inclined. vertical lines in these spectra. Credit: NASA/ESA/CSA and the NIRpec team

Three of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s four science instruments have completed commissioning activities and are ready for science.

Each of Webb’s instruments has several modes of operation, which must be tested, calibrated and ultimately verified before they can begin to do science. The latest instrument to complete this process, the Near Infrared Spectrograph, or NIRSpec, has four key modes that the team has officially confirmed to be ready for use.

“We did it: NIRSpec is ready for science! This is an incredible moment, the result of the hard work of so many JWST and NIRSpec individuals and teams for over two decades. I’m so proud of everyone,” said Pierre Ferruit. , Webb Project Scientist with ESA (European Space Agency) and Principal Investigator for NIRSpec. “Now is the time for science, and I can’t wait to see the first scientific results from NIRSpec observations. I’m sure they will be fantastic. Many thanks to everyone who has made this possible over the years – excellent work !”

The final mode verified for NIRSpec was Multi-Object Spectroscopy Mode, a key capability that allows Webb to capture spectra, or rainbows of infrared light, from hundreds of different cosmic targets at once. In multi-object spectroscopy mode, NIRSpec can individually open and close about 250,000 small panes, all the width of a human hair, to view certain parts of the sky while blocking out others. By controlling this “network of micro-shutters”, Webb can observe multiple specific targets while reducing interference from others.

The confirmation of NIRSpec’s multi-object spectroscopy mode marks the first time this capability has been verified for use from space. This will allow NIRSpec to characterize everything from the faintest objects in the universe to the formation of galaxies and star clusters.

NIRSpec was built for ESA by a consortium of European companies led by Airbus Defense and Space, with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland providing its detection and micro-shutter subsystems.

Out of a total of 17 instrument modes across Webb’s four instruments, only one mode remains to be verified, for the Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). When the team confirms this remaining mode, the months-long process of preparing Webb for science will officially be complete.

Webb’s commissioning process culminates on July 12, with the release of the telescope’s first color images and spectroscopic data, and the official start of its science mission.

Webb’s NIRISS instrument is ready to see the cosmos in over 2,000 infrared colors

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