First flight instrument delivered for James Webb

Jun 14, 2012
The MIRI Cleanroom Huddle: Although it appears that these six contamination control engineers are in a huddle around the James Webb Space Telescope's Mid-Infrared Instrument (or MIRI), they are conducting a receiving inspection. Engineers from the European Space Agency are wearing blue hoods, and engineers from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are wearing the white hoods. As part of the standard receiving inspection, they are looking for the tiniest traces of dust or contamination which would have to be remedied because cleanliness is a priority for such a sensitive instrument; MIRI passed its inspection review. Credit: Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

The first of four instruments to fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) has been delivered to NASA. The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) will allow scientists to study cold and distant objects in greater detail than ever before.

MIRI arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., May 29. It has been undergoing inspection before being integrated into Webb's payload known as the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM).

Assembled at and shipped from the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom, MIRI was developed by a consortium of 10 European institutions and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., and delivered by the .

George Rieke, MIRI Science Team Lead at University of Arizona, Tucson, noted, "MIRI is the first Webb instrument to be delivered, the result of teamwork in the U.S. and internationally."

MIRI will observe light with wavelengths in the mid-infrared range of 5 microns to 28 microns, which is a longer wavelength than human eyes can detect. It is the only instrument of the four with this particular ability to observe the physical processes occurring in the cosmos.

"MIRI will enable Webb to distinguish the oldest galaxies from more evolved objects that have undergone several cycles of star birth and death," said Matt Greenhouse, ISIM project scientist at Goddard. "MIRI also will provide a unique window into the birth places of stars which are typically enshrouded by dust that shorter wavelength light cannot penetrate."

MIRI's sensitive detectors will allow it to observe light, cool stars in very distant galaxies; unveil newly forming stars within our Milky Way; find signatures of the formation of planets around stars other than our own; and take imagery and spectroscopy of planets, comets and the outermost bits of debris in our solar system. MIRI's images will enable scientists to study an object's shape and structure.

"MIRI will help us understand what's out there at the edge of what we can see," said Mike Ressler, the instrument's project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The shorter-wavelength instruments will discover the glow of the farthest known objects, but we need MIRI to help identify what they are -- supermassive black holes, newborn galaxies or something we've never seen before."

Explore further: Rosetta Comet Landing in 'Thud' and 3D

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The MIRI infrared instrument has two faces

Mar 29, 2012

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 ...

Recommended for you

Rosetta Comet Landing in 'Thud' and 3D

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A 3D image shows what it would look like to fly over the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was generated from data collected by the Rosetta Lander Imaging System (ROLIS) ...

Time in space exposes materials to the test of time

6 hours ago

Much like that pickup truck rusting in your backyard thanks to time, rain and the elements, extended stays in the brutal environment of space can take its toll on spacecraft, satellites and space stations. ...

Earth's orbit around the sun

8 hours ago

Ever since the 16th century when Nicolaus Copernicus demonstrated that the Earth revolved around in the Sun, scientists have worked tirelessly to understand the relationship in mathematical terms. If this ...

How can we search for life on icy moons such as Europa?

9 hours ago

Our solar system is host to a wealth of icy worlds that may have water beneath the surface. The Cassini spacecraft recently uncovered evidence of a possible ocean under the surface of Saturn's moon, Mimas.

CubeSat instruments to demonstrate NASA firsts

9 hours ago

The Dellingr six-unit CubeSat, which is taking its developers just one year to design, build and integrate, won't be the only potentially groundbreaking capability for NASA. Its heliophysics payloads also ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.