The Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph instrument (NIRISS) has completed its post-launch preparations and is ready for science.
It’s one of the James Webb Space Telescope’s four primary scientific instruments.
The last NIRISS mode should be checked off before the instrument is declared qualified to start scientific operations as the Single Object Slitless Spectroscopy (SOSS) capability. The core of the SOSS mode is a specialized prism committee that scatters the light of a cosmic source to establish three distinctive spectra, uncovering the hues of more than 2,000 infrared colors compiled simultaneously in a solitary observation. This mode will be mainly used to study the atmospheres of exoplanets that pass by. By correlating the spectra obtained during and before or after a transit event with tremendous precision, one can not only understand whether or not the exoplanet contains an atmosphere but also what atoms and molecules compose it.
“I’m so excited and thrilled to think that we’ve finally reached the end of this two-decade-long journey of Canada’s contribution to the mission. All four NIRISS modes are not only ready, but the instrument as a whole is performing significantly better than we predicted. I am pinching myself at the thought that we are just days away from the start of science operations, and in particular from NIRISS probing its first exoplanet atmospheres,” announced René Doyon, principal investigator for NIRISS, as well as Webb’s Fine Guidance Sensor, at the University of Montreal.