instrument failure interrupts some telescope observations

A technical failure of an important instrument in NASA’s James Webb Telescope interrupted some of the equipment’s observations. And the worst: the affected part may have been permanently damaged.

James Webb has four instruments, which total 17 observation modes. The failure occurred in one of the most important of them, the MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument, in Portuguese), indicated by the scientists of the space agency as being “above all that has been made available to astronomers to date. .

MIRI is equipped with a camera and a spectrograph, used to see distant or newly formed galaxies, as well as smaller and fainter objects, such as asteroids.

This James Webb sensor is the one that works at the longest length of light, being able to cut through dust clouds more easily. In these regions, the presence of spectral signatures – which can reveal the types of molecules that surround certain stars, grouped into disks that can form planets – is very strong.

Each instrument and mode sees different details of the universe. Pictured is the South Ring Nebula recorded by NIRCam (left) and MIRI (right) (Image: Disclosure/NASA)

MIRI alone is equipped with four observation modes. The flaw was identified on August 24, when “a mechanism supporting one of these modes, known as Moderate Resolution Spectroscopy (MRS), exhibited what appears to be increased friction during setup. for scientific observation,” NASA said.

The mechanism resembles a selection wheel, in which astronomers choose between short, medium and long wavelengths when making this type of observation.

The US agency has set up a team to investigate the problem and fix it, however, in the meantime, the module is disabled.

However, NASA has assured that the James Webb remains in good health, with the other MIRI observing modes and the telescope’s other instruments continuing to operate normally.

With information from the UOL

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