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James Webb Space Telescope: MIRI instrument fully usable again after anomaly

James Webb Space Telescope: MIRI instrument fully usable again after anomaly

Two months after a problem was discovered with one of the 17 observation modes of the James Webb Space Telescope, it is now available again. As NASA explains, a team of experts is convinced that they have discovered the cause and worked on potential countermeasures.

The first test was successful at the beginning of November, and a scientific observation of the polar region of Saturn is scheduled for next Saturday, which then will not be possible for 20 years. Further scientific observations must be pursued before the affected instrument is declared fully operational again.

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The problem arose with a mechanism that supports “medium-resolution spectroscopy” of the MIRI device. “Apparently increased friction” is found in a type of grooved wheel that allows switching between notes at short, medium and long wavelengths. A detailed analysis of the instrument, as well as outdated data, showed that under certain conditions there are “excessively high communication forces between the subcomponents”. Based on this, a plan was developedHow the mechanism can still be used during scientific work. In the next notes, the case should now be noted.

The James Webb Space Telescope is operated by NASA, ESA, and CSA and was launched on December 25, 2021. After a complex procedure of self-detection, it reached the L2 Lagrange point a month later. Here he looks so far from the Sun, Earth and Moon into space that their heat radiation does not disturb the infrared telescope. A huge protective screen prevents them.

Except for an unexpectedly large small meteor impact, everything on the mission has gone almost perfectly so far. Even during the photo-perfect launch aboard the European Ariane 5, so much fuel was saved that the device would have to run for 20 years instead of the planned 5-10 years.

Since the scientific work began at the beginning of July, the quality of the data has not only astounded the research community. The first recordings are currently being published live. The goal is for the scientific community to learn how to use the new observatory and its tools as much as possible.


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