The exoplanet hunter and the first light detector on NASA’s next-generation space telescope are ready to make science six months after the observatory begins in space.
The $ 10 billion James Webb Space Telescope is completing its mission by exploring its four main tools and their various methods, which will enable Webb to study distant galaxies and objects close to the Milky Way or solar system.
Now one of those tools is ready for use as Webb executives prepare to release the first working images of the observatory on July 12. (Exactly what items will be shown by those original images are confidential.)
Called the Near-Infrared Imager and the Slitless Spectrograph instrument (NIRISS), the device, a Canadian contribution, “did much better than we had predicted,” said lead researcher René Doyon, an exoplanet researcher and astronomer at Université de Montreal, NASA statement
NIRISS will operate next to the Canadian orientation sensor (FGS), allowing the telescope to target its target from its deepest point accurately. Doyon, also the chief investigator of FGS, said he was keen to see the new science.
“I think it’s just a few days before science starts, and especially NIRISS is testing its original exoplanet status,” Doyon said in a NASA post from Monday (June 27).
Both FGS and NIRISS were developed by Honeywell and funded by the Canadian Space Agency. As a result of these contributions, Canadian researchers have a proven scientific gift to Webb, which will deal with a highly competitive proposal process throughout the proposed 20 observatory years of operation.
The final mode of NIRISS to fully fit the science is “spectroscopy of one object.” This mode allows the tool to detect incoming light on a remote object, measuring the amount of light by specific wavelengths.
Since the elements have a different light signature (spectrum), this viewing mode in NIRISS will allow researchers to understand what features are present in the structure of the exoplanet. For example, the Webb can detect traces of oxygen or other common elements in the solar system on giant planets.