The MIRI infrared instrument has two faces

Mar 29, 2012
This is the flight Mid-Inrared Instrument (MIRI) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in England. Credit: RAL

A short new video takes viewers behind the scenes with the MIRI or the Mid-Infrared Instrument that will fly on-board NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. MIRI is a state-of-the-art infrared instrument that will allow scientists to study distant objects in greater detail than ever before.

The three minute and 19 second video called "The MIRI Has Two Faces" is part of an on-going video series about the Webb telescope called "Behind the Webb." It was produced at the Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md. and takes viewers behind the scenes with scientists and engineers who are creating the Webb telescope's components. MIRI's "two faces" allow the to look at the cosmos in pictures and through spectroscopy.

The contains four , but only one of them, the MIRI, sees light in the mid-infrared region of the . Mid-infrared light is longer in wavelength than that which the other Webb instruments are designed to observe. This unique capability of the MIRI allows the Webb telescope to study physical processes occurring in the cosmos that the other Webb instruments cannot see.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Video: NASA

In the video, STScI host Mary Estacion interviewed European principal investigator, Dr. Gillian Wright. Wright explained the benefits of the MIRI's mid-infrared vision, who explained that the instrument is better at seeing through dust which obscures key phenomena such as star formation. It is also better at seeing light emitted by molecules that reveal a wealth of physical information and can reveal the presence of .

The MIRI is both a spectrometer and an imager. MIRI contains two apertures that can be pointed at an object in space to record both its image and spectrum. An aperture is an opening through which light travels. The MIRI is basically two instruments in one, so it has "two faces."

MIRI records light with wavelength in the range of 5 to 28 microns. Its sensitive detectors will allow it to make unique observations of many things including the light of distant galaxies, newly forming stars within our own Milky Way, the formation of planets around stars other than our own, as well as planets, comets, and the outermost debris disk in our own solar system.

The MIRI's spectrometer will enable scientists to learn about an object's physical properties, including temperature, mass, and chemical composition. The MIRI's camera will provide images that enable scientists to study an object's shape and structure, and will continue to provide the kind of breathtaking pictures that have made Hubble famous. "The MIRI instrument and the Webb's large telescope mirror will enable the highest resolution mid-infrared imagery ever achieved in space astronomy," said Matt Greenhouse, project scientist for the Webb instrument payload at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The MIRI also includes coronagraphs that will enable it to image planets and the process of planet formation around stars other than our own.

The MIRI's components were built by a consortium of 11 European countries and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The instrument was assembled and tested at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, England, and that's where this new video takes viewers behind the scenes.

The Webb telescope is the world's next-generation space observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The most powerful space telescope ever built, the Webb telescope will provide images of the first galaxies ever formed, and explore planets around distant stars. It is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

Explore further: Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Testing time for instrument on Hubble's successor

Dec 06, 2007

A significant milestone for the Hubble Space Telescope successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is on course to be reached before Christmas with the testing of the verification model of the Mid-InfraRed Instrument ...

Quick 'cool' facts about NASA's Webb Telescope on video

Apr 01, 2011

Interested in learning some quick facts about NASA's next-generation space telescope? NASA has created a short video to show you just how literally "cool" the James Webb Space Telescope really is. For one ...

Recommended for you

Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

8 hours ago

This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… ...

Rosetta instrument commissioning continues

9 hours ago

We're now in week four of six dedicated to commissioning Rosetta's science instruments after the long hibernation period, with the majority now having completed at least a first initial switch on.

Astronaut salary

9 hours ago

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

Apr 16, 2014

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...