by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Feb 26, 2014
The four science instruments that will fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope have to be surgically installed for precision and accuracy. NASA has just released a time-lapse video showing how clean room engineers installed one of those instruments into a large component of the Webb telescope.
The Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI, arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., May 28, 2012, and has undergone inspection and testing. Recently, it was integrated into Webb's science instrument payload known as the Integrated Science Instrument Module, or ISIM. The ISIM will house the Webb's four main instruments.
The 1 minute and 1 second time-lapse video covers a period of four hours. It was filmed in the largest clean room at Goddard, where all four of the Webb telescope's instruments and mirrors currently reside. Viewers of the video will see engineers in clean room suits installing the MIRI over time.
"Actual total time to install the MIRI was just over four hours," said Jason Hylan, lead mechanical systems, mechanical integration and test, and opto-mechanical engineer for the ISIM at Goddard. "The MIRI had to be positioned to a tolerance of 25 microns, or one one-thousandth of an inch, which is less than the width of a human hair."
MIRI will allow scientists to study cold and distant objects in greater detail than ever before. MIRI will observe light with wavelengths in the mid-infrared range of 5 microns to 28 microns, which are longer wavelengths than human eyes can detect and even beyond the 0.6 micron to 5 micron wavelength range of Webb's other three instruments.
MIRI's capabilities will allow it to observe older, cooler 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 record images and spectra of planets, comets and the outermost bits of debris in our solar system.
MIRI's mid-infrared coverage will complement the near-infrared capabilities of the other instruments, including observations of the most distant objects to help determine whether or not they are among the first ones that formed in the universe.
The MIRI was developed by a consortium of 10 European institutions in partnership with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. It was assembled at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom and delivered to NASA by the European Space Agency.
The most powerful space telescope ever built, Webb is the successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Webb's four instruments will reveal how the universe evolved from the Big Bang to the formation of our solar system. Webb is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
JWST at NASA
Space Telescope News and Technology at Skynightly.com
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