Thursday, June 21, 2012

James Webb: One Down, Three to Go

In the above image, contamination control engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are conducting an inspection of the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) following receipt of MIRI from the European Space Agency (ESA). NASA engineers are shown in white hoods and ESA engineers are in blue hoods. Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

On May 29th, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, took possession of the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), one four instruments that will fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (Webb). MIRI is the first of the four to be delivered to NASA.

MIRI will allow scientists to study cold and distant objects in greater detail than ever before. It has been undergoing inspection prior its integrated into Webb's science instrument payload, which is known as the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM).

Assembled at and shipped from the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom, MIRI was developed by a consortium of 10 European institutions and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and delivered by the European Space Agency.
MIRI will observe light with wavelengths in the mid-infrared range of 5 microns to 28 microns, which is a longer wavelength than human eyes can detect. It is the only instrument of the four with this particular ability to observe the physical processes occurring in the cosmos.

Astronomers expect MIRI to enable Webb to distinguish the oldest galaxies from more evolved objects that have undergone several cycles of star birth and death. They also expect MIRI to provide a unique window into the birth places of stars which are typically enshrouded by dust that shorter wavelength light cannot penetrate.

MIRI's sensitive detectors will allow it to observe light, cool 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 take imagery and spectroscopy of planets, comets and the outermost bits of debris in our solar system. MIRI's images will enable scientists to study an object's shape and structure.

And now, the mission particulars...

Named after former NASA Administrator James E. Webb (1906 - 1992), NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (Webb) will be the most powerful space telescope to date. Webb is the successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The four instruments aboard Webb will reveal how the universe evolved from the Big Bang to the formation of our solar system. Webb is planned for launch in 2018 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket on a five-year mission, with an operational-life goal of 10 years. Webb is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

NASA has two "Behind the Webb" videos about MIRI. To see them, visit: and

For more information about the mid- and near-infrared spectrum, visit:

For more information about NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, visit:

Follow me on Twitter at . Like what you see? Let me know! Email:


No comments: