The James Webb Space Telescope will probe the chemistry of the universe

The James Webb Space Telescope will probe the chemistry of the universe

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is preparing for a deep space chemistry experiment. During the commissioning of the observatory and the ongoing mirror alignment, Webb's Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) team successfully completed the initial checkout and characterization of three mechanisms that are critical to the instrument. to do its job.

“The NIRSpec team will continue its commissioning efforts. The entire team is looking forward to scientific observations this summer, "wrote several NIRSpec representatives in a recent post on the official blog. Once operational, NIRSpec will divide the light from targets that Webb observes into what scientists call spectra, measuring the amount of light with specific wavelengths. This fingerprint can teach astronomers new things about galaxies, exoplanets and other objects by shedding light on properties such as mass, temperature and chemical composition.

With NIRSpec, Webb can take spectra from as many as 100 galaxies simultaneously , making observations much more efficient as collecting photons of light from such distant objects will take the observatory hundreds of hours.

The three key mechanisms of NIRSpec are a filter wheel assembly, a lattice wheel assembly, and a refocusing mechanism, the Webb blog post said. Here's how the tool will work: the grid wheel diffuses the light from a target of interest into its colors (wavelengths) to create a spectrum. The filter wheel reduces contamination by blocking wavelengths outside of what scientists are interested in looking at. Then the refocus mechanism will adjust and sharpen the focus of the NIRSpec.

The engineers checked each of these mechanisms separately, starting with the filter wheel to make sure its eight forward and backward positions worked. “At each location, we recorded a set of benchmark data,” NIRSpec officials wrote. “This data showed us how well the wheel moved and how accurately it settled in each position. The data showed that the wheel moved very well even on the first attempt. ”

Next, Webb engineers recorded the reference data of the reticle wheel assembly and analyzed the positions at roughly the same the same way, proving that everything was working correctly. Then, with the assembly of the focusing mechanism (RMA), the engineers also did an initial data collection. Successful completion of this test has shown us that RMA is a healthy and well-trained mechanism ".

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