NASA recently made a "wow" announcement about one of James Webb's instruments
Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 27 June 2022, at 12:06 pm Los Angeles time
NASA has made a fascinating announcement about one of the four main instruments of the James Webb telescope.
The team coordinating Webb was able to complete the post-launch checks and preparations for the NIRISS (Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) instrument.
This was expected to happen, given that it is less than 15 days until the first clear and full-color image from the famous telescope.
The wow information is that this super-performing instrument will be able to explore the Universe in over 2,000 infrared colors, making it clearly one of the most powerful instruments in a telescope for the spectroscopy category.
This performance is due to the latest mode of the instrument verified by the Webb team, namely Single Object Slitless Spectroscopy (SOSS).
"The heart of the SOSS mode is a specialized prism assembly that disperses the light of a cosmic source to create three distinctive spectra (rainbows), revealing the hues of more than 2,000 infrared colors collected simultaneously in a single observation," said NASA.
"This mode will be specifically used to probe the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets, i.e., planets that happen to eclipse their star periodically, momentarily dimming the star's brightness for a period of time. By comparing the spectra collected during and before or after a transit event with great precision, one can determine not only whether or not the exoplanet has an atmosphere, but also what atoms and molecules are in it," the space agency concluded.
"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," said René Doyon, principal investigator for NIRISS, as well as Webb's Fine Guidance Sensor, at the University of Montreal.
The team coordinating the telescope has to check 5 more of the 17 modules so that Webb's other 3 instruments can begin their scientific observations.