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James Webb Space Telescope experiences glitch

James Webb Space Telescope
Image Commercially Licensed from: Deposit Photos

In regards to the James Webb Space Telescope, there are both good and bad news

The bad news is that the Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI, one of the’scope’s instruments, has encountered a little aberration. But before you panic, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is still alive, well, and fully capable of continuing to decode the invisible cosmos for us.

In essence, the JWST team reported that one of MIRI’s four observing modes suggested a decrease in the amount of light the instrument observed in April. After looking into the matter, NASA concluded that there is no danger to MIRI’s scientific capabilities from this alteration. In a blog post published on Thursday, August 24, NASA stated that there was “no risk to the instrument.” 

When the instrument shifts to the specific mode that is affected, the anomaly may affect the amount of exposure time required. 

The currently used technique, known as Medium-Resolution Spectroscopy (MRS), is calibrated to gather infrared data from far-off cosmological areas that correspond to wavelengths between 5 and 28.5 microns. According to NASA, emission from molecules and dust is often seen in that range, which makes MRS ideal for locating objects like planet-forming disks. However, the diminished signal is unique to MIRI imaging at the longer wavelengths, as NASA writes in the blog post.

The team reports that one of MIRI’s additional modes, known as Low-Resolution Spectrography, which focuses on wavelengths between 5 and 12 microns often associated with object surfaces (like planets), is functioning normally. Coronagraphic Imaging, a fourth MIRI mode, is currently being researched. Through a technique known as coronagraphy, which depends on blocking light from one source to gain information about nearby sources, that mode is set up to directly identify exoplanets and dust disks encircling host stars.

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The JWST team also verified that “each of Webb’s other scientific instruments remain unaffected” and that the observatory is “generally in good health.” The Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), and Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) are some of the devices that make up this system. 

James Webb Space Telescope makes “surprising” discovery

NASA said on Monday that fresh photographs from the James Webb Space Telescope have revealed delicate characteristics of a dying star’s last stages. One astronomer claimed that the photographs of the Ring Nebula, which showed a dazzling halo and vivid hues, also contributed to a startling finding. 

According to the space agency, Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument gave the weak molecular halo its best-ever clarity. In the halo, it captured up to 10 concentric “arcs” that are thought to have formed around every 280 years as the central star lost its outer layers.  

There is no known mechanism that takes so long, like the evolution of a single star into a planetary nebula. Instead, these rings imply the existence of a companion star in the system that orbits the central star at a distance similar to that of Pluto from the Sun. The companion star moulded and formed the outflow as the dying star threw off its atmosphere. The sensitivity and spatial resolution of any previous telescope were insufficient to detect this tiny effect.

According to NASA, the Ring Nebula is a perfect target for astronomers to study planetary nebulae, regions of cosmic gas and dust produced from the shed outer layers of dead stars. Back in 1764, the first planetary nebula to be found was spotted. At one time, it was believed that they were basic, spherical, and contained a single, fading star in the middle. 

French astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix made the initial discovery of the Ring Nebula in 1779. In the constellation Lyra, it is located around 2,000 light-years away. With a medium sized telescope, it is visible.