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CAZENEUVE Optimax 360 Lathe
This CAZENEUVE Optimax 360 Lathe was manufactured in the year 2019 in France. It is equipped with a
This CAZENEUVE Optimax 360 Lathe was manufactured in the year 2019 in France. It is equipped with a ...

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James Webb Space Telescope readies itself for discovery

Posted on 16 May 2022 and read 607 times
James Webb Space Telescope readies itself for discoveryNIRSpec (Near Infrared Spectrograph), a key instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) has successfully passed all its functional tests including sub-systems and mechanisms and is one step closer to delivering its first results.

The NIRSpec commissioning team, including Airbus engineers, performed the tests as Webb is cooling down to cryogenic temperatures, enabling it to operate without infrared disturbances that could affect its observations. The telescope is approaching its operational temperature of around -235degC, and the successful testing is an extremely important milestone in the commissioning of NIRSpec.

Jean Marc Nasr, head of Airbus Space Systems, said: “The Webb telescope will be a turning point in the way we see our Universe. Our contributions to the NIRSpec and MIRI instruments represent the pinnacle of technology in modern astronomy. At Airbus, we will bring our unrivaled experience and will be a key partner in the future discoveries of the Webb mission.”

Since Webb’s launch, team members from Airbus sites in Munich and Friedrichshafen have constantly monitored the cool down from the Mission Operations Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore (Maryland, USA).

Performance tests and calibration

The next phase of commissioning, which has begun, will last two months and includes performance tests and calibration that have now started as the 18 segments of the primary mirror are now aligned and in phase. The Airbus engineering team will also continue to support performance verification and calibration throughout. Once its correct operation is confirmed, NIRSpec can begin to make history through its observations.

NIRSpec is so precise that it is expected to produce amazing advances in infrared space science. It will study the formation of the first stars and galaxies in our Universe, when it was only a few hundred million years old. NIRSpec will also be able to study the atmosphere of exoplanets, or planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. In particular, it will look for the signature of key molecules like water.

Together with NIRSpec and MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument, also with Airbus involvement), Webb will observe infrared light from space in unprecedented detail, enabling it to look back 13.5 billion years to see the first galaxies formed after the Big Bang or the formation of planetary systems in the Milky Way.