Mid-Infrared Instrument Operations UpdateThe James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) has four observing modes. On Aug. 24, a mechanism that supports one of these modes, known as medium-resolution spectroscopy (MRS), exhibited what appears to be increased friction during setup for a science observation. This mechanism is a grating wheel that allows scientists to select between short, medium, and longer wavelengths when making observations using the MRS mode. Following preliminary health checks and investigations into the issue, an anomaly review board was convened Sept. 6 to assess the best path forward.The Webb team has paused in scheduling observations using this particular observing mode while they continue to analyze its behavior and are currently developing strategies to resume MRS observations as soon as possible. The observatory is in good health, and MIRI’s other three observing modes – imaging, low-resolution spectroscopy, and coronagraphy – are operating normally and remain available for science observations.Author Thaddeus Cesari Posted on September 20, 2022
At an #IAC2022 plenary on JWST, NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen mentions the MIRI filter wheel issue announced yesterday. “Taking a break” to make sure it’s working properly.Other ongoing challenges: micrometeoroid hits at a rate of 1/month, and access to DSN during Artemis 1 mission.
New Webb Image Captures Clearest View of Neptune’s Rings in Decades21 September 2022The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope is showing off its capabilities closer to home with its first image of Neptune. Not only has Webb captured the clearest view of this peculiar planet’s rings in more than 30 years, but its cameras are also revealing the ice giant in a whole new light.Most striking about Webb’s new image is the crisp view of the planet’s dynamic rings — some of which haven’t been seen at all, let alone with this clarity, since the Voyager 2 flyby in 1989. In addition to several bright narrow rings, the Webb images clearly show Neptune’s fainter dust bands. Webb’s extremely stable and precise image quality also permits these very faint rings to be detected so close to Neptune.Neptune has fascinated and perplexed researchers since its discovery in 1846. Located 30 times farther from the Sun than Earth, Neptune orbits in one of the dimmest areas of our Solar System. At that extreme distance, the Sun is so small and faint that high noon on Neptune is similar to a dim twilight on Earth.This planet is characterised as an ice giant due to the chemical make-up of its interior. Compared to the gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, Neptune is much richer in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. This is readily apparent in Neptune’s signature blue appearance in NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images at visible wavelengths, caused by small amounts of gaseous methane.Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captures objects in the near-infrared range from 0.6 to 5 microns, so Neptune does not appear blue to Webb. In fact, the methane gas is so strongly absorbing that the planet is quite dark at Webb wavelengths except where high-altitude clouds are present. Such methane-ice clouds are prominent as bright streaks and spots, which reflect sunlight before it is absorbed by methane gas. Images from other observatories have recorded these rapidly-evolving cloud features over the years.More subtly, a thin line of brightness circling the planet’s equator could be a visual signature of global atmospheric circulation that powers Neptune’s winds and storms. The atmosphere descends and warms at the equator, and thus glows at infrared wavelengths more than the surrounding, cooler gases.Neptune’s 164-year orbit means its northern pole, at the top of this image, is just out of view for astronomers, but the Webb images hint at an intriguing brightness in that area. A previously-known vortex at the southern pole is evident in Webb’s view, but for the first time Webb has revealed a continuous band of clouds surrounding it.Webb also captured seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons. Dominating this Webb portrait of Neptune is a very bright point of light sporting the signature diffraction spikes seen in many of Webb’s images; it’s not a star, but Neptune’s most unusual moon, Triton.Covered in a frozen sheen of condensed nitrogen, Triton reflects an average of 70 percent of the sunlight that hits it. It far outshines Neptune because the planet’s atmosphere is darkened by methane absorption at Webb’s wavelengths. Triton orbits Neptune in a bizarre backward (retrograde) orbit, leading astronomers to speculate that this moon was actually a Kuiper Belt object that was gravitationally captured by Neptune. Additional Webb studies of both Triton and Neptune are planned in the coming year.More informationWebb is the largest, most powerful telescope ever launched into space. Under an international collaboration agreement, ESA provided the telescope’s launch service, using the Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Working with partners, ESA was responsible for the development and qualification of Ariane 5 adaptations for the Webb mission and for the procurement of the launch service by Arianespace. ESA also provided the workhorse spectrograph NIRSpec and 50% of the mid-infrared instrument MIRI, which was designed and built by a consortium of nationally funded European Institutes (The MIRI European Consortium) in partnership with JPL and the University of Arizona.Webb is an international partnership between NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
In visible light, Neptune appears blue due to small amounts of methane gas in its atmosphere. Webb’s NIRCam instrument instead observed Neptune at near-infrared wavelengths, so Neptune doesn’t look so blue!
That’s no star. It’s Neptune’s large, unusual moon, Triton! Because Triton is covered in frozen, condensed nitrogen, it reflects 70% of the sunlight that hits it — making it appear very bright to Webb. 6 of Neptune’s other moons (labeled) are also seen here.
Space, but make it goth! 🕸️If this new image from Webb’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) looks dark & moody, that's because things look different in this light than what you may be used to. These are the "bones” of galaxy IC 5332, usually hidden by dust: https://bit.ly/3dSuzrj
In visible and ultraviolet light, @NASAHubble (left) shows dark regions of dust that separate the spiral arms. Webb (right) is able to peer through that dust in mid-infrared light, instead seeing patterns of gas that echo the arms’ shape.
Different stars shine brighter at different wavelengths of light — so some stars are clearer in @NASAHubble’s view, while others are more visible with Webb. Taken together, these two views provide us a more complete understanding of galaxy IC 5332’s structure and composition.
The first science-quality image revealed from NASA's newest space telescope contained a hidden treasure in the form of a sparking distant galaxy surrounded by dense clusters that could contain some of the universe's first stars.
"Hello darkness, my old friend"A tiny snippet from our new #JWST data, showing a planetary system in the making, floating in space & silhouetted against the bright background light of the Orion Nebula.1/
The system comprises a young star, about 1 million years old, surrounded by a dense disk of gas & dust from which planets may be being built. Seen edge-on from our perspective, the dust in the disk blocks light coming from the bright background nebula, making a silhouette.2/
Astronomers have been so keen to use the new James Webb Space Telescope that some have got a little ahead of themselves. Many started analysing Webb data right after the first batch was released, on 14 July, and quickly posted their results on preprint servers—but are now having to revise them. The telescope’s detectors had not been calibrated thoroughly when the first data were made available, and that fact slipped past some astronomers in their excitement.The revisions don’t so far appear to substantially change many of the exciting early results, such as the discovery of a number of candidates for the most distant galaxy ever spotted. But the ongoing calibration process is forcing astronomers to reckon with the limitations of early data from Webb.Figuring out how to redo the work is “thorny and annoying”, says Marco Castellano, an astronomer at the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome. “There’s been a lot of frustration,” says Garth Illingworth, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “I don’t think anybody really expected this to be as big of an issue as it’s becoming,” adds Guido Roberts-Borsani, an astronomer at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Working with Webb data involves several types of calibration, but the current controversy is around one of the telescope’s main instruments, its Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam). In the six months after Webb launched, STScI researchers worked to calibrate NIRCam. But given the demands on Webb, they had only enough time to point it at one or two calibration stars, and to take data using just one of NIRCam’s ten detectors. They then estimated the calibrations for the other nine detectors. “That’s where there was a problem,” Boyer says. “Each detector will be a little bit different.”
To try to standardize all the measurements, the STScI is working through a detailed plan to point Webb at several types of well-understood star, and observe them with every detector in every mode for every instrument on the telescope. “It just takes a while,” says Karl Gordon, an astronomer at the STScI who helps lead the effort.
This is what you’ve waited for.Journey with us through Webb’s breathtaking view of the Pillars of Creation, where scores of newly formed stars glisten like dewdrops among floating, translucent columns of gas and dust: go.nasa.gov/3EPPiXWHere’s your guided tour ⬇️
Oct 19, 2022NASA’s Webb Takes Star-Filled Portrait of Pillars of CreationNASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a lush, highly detailed landscape – the iconic Pillars of Creation – where new stars are forming within dense clouds of gas and dust. The three-dimensional pillars look like majestic rock formations, but are far more permeable. These columns are made up of cool interstellar gas and dust that appear – at times – semi-transparent in near-infrared light.Webb’s new view of the Pillars of Creation, which were first made famous when imaged by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, will help researchers revamp their models of star formation by identifying far more precise counts of newly formed stars, along with the quantities of gas and dust in the region. Over time, they will begin to build a clearer understanding of how stars form and burst out of these dusty clouds over millions of years.Newly formed stars are the scene-stealers in this image from Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam). These are the bright red orbs that typically have diffraction spikes and lie outside one of the dusty pillars. When knots with sufficient mass form within the pillars of gas and dust, they begin to collapse under their own gravity, slowly heat up, and eventually form new stars.What about those wavy lines that look like lava at the edges of some pillars? These are ejections from stars that are still forming within the gas and dust. Young stars periodically shoot out supersonic jets that collide with clouds of material, like these thick pillars. This sometimes also results in bow shocks, which can form wavy patterns like a boat does as it moves through water. The crimson glow comes from the energetic hydrogen molecules that result from jets and shocks. This is evident in the second and third pillars from the top – the NIRCam image is practically pulsing with their activity. These young stars are estimated to be only a few hundred thousand years old.Although it may appear that near-infrared light has allowed Webb to “pierce through” the clouds to reveal great cosmic distances beyond the pillars, there are no galaxies in this view. Instead, a mix of translucent gas and dust known as the interstellar medium in the densest part of our Milky Way galaxy’s disk blocks our view of the deeper universe.This scene was first imaged by Hubble in 1995 and revisited in 2014, but many other observatories have also stared deeply at this region. Each advanced instrument offers researchers new details about this region, which is practically overflowing with stars.This tightly cropped image is set within the vast Eagle Nebula, which lies 6,500 light-years away.Take a video tour of Webb’s near-infrared light view of the Pillars of Creation. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI); Danielle Kirshenblat (STScI).The James Webb Space Telescope is the world's premier space science observatory. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
The Pillars of Creation are set off in a kaleidoscope of color in NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s near-infrared-light view. The pillars look like arches and spires rising out of a desert landscape, but are filled with semi-transparent gas and dust, and ever changing. This is a region where young stars are forming – or have barely burst from their dusty cocoons as they continue to form.Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI).
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope made the Pillars of Creation famous with its first image in 1995, but revisited the scene in 2014 to reveal a sharper, wider view in visible light, shown above at left. A new, near-infrared-light view from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, at right, helps us peer through more of the dust in this star-forming region. The thick, dusty brown pillars are no longer as opaque and many more red stars that are still forming come into view.Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Joseph DePasquale (STScI), Anton M. Koekemoer (STScI), Alyssa Pagan (STScI).
The $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been observing for less than 4 months, but already a storm is brewing over access to its data. Webb images and spectra all end up in an archive at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, yet most of them aren’t freely available until 1 year after the data were collected. This gives the researchers who proposed the observations time to analyze them and publish results without being scooped.But some astronomers question the practice, arguing that data from federally funded projects should be free for all to use. NASA, Webb’s primary backer, is facing an open data push from the White House and may soon end the restriction. Having so much Webb data locked away “doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s just not right,” says astronomer Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who from 2009 to 2017 chaired a committee advising STScI on Webb’s future science operations.
James Webb Space Telescope peers into lonely dwarf galaxy with sparkling resultsThe most powerful space telescope currently operating has zoomed in on a lonely dwarf galaxy in our galactic neighborhood, imaging it in stunning detail. At around 3 million light-years from Earth, the dwarf galaxy, named Wolf–Lundmark–Melotte (WLM) for three astronomers instrumental in its discovery, is close enough that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can distinguish individual stars while still being able to study large numbers of stars simultaneously. The dwarf galaxy, in the constellation of Cetus, is one of the most remote members of the local galaxy group that contains our galaxy. Its isolated nature and lack of interactions with other galaxies, including the Milky Way, make WLM useful in the study of how stars evolve in smaller galaxies. "We think WLM hasn't interacted with other systems, which makes it really nice for testing our theories of galaxy formation and evolution," Kristen McQuinn, an astronomer at Rutgers University in New Jersey and lead scientist on the research project, said in a statement from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, which operates the observatory. "Many of the other nearby galaxies are intertwined and entangled with the Milky Way, which makes them harder to study."...McQuinn pointed out a second reason WLM is an intriguing target: its gas is very similar to that of galaxies in the early universe, without any elements heavier than hydrogen and helium.But whereas the gas of those early galaxies never contained heavier elements, the gas in WLM has lost its share of these elements to a phenomenon called galactic winds. These winds stem from supernovas, or exploding stars; because WLM has so little mass, these winds can push material out of the dwarf galaxy....McQuinn's team is currently developing a software tool that everyone will be able to use that can measure the brightness of all the individually resolved stars in the NIRCam images, she said. "This is a bedrock tool for astronomers around the world," she said. "If you want to do anything with resolved stars that are crowded together on the sky, you need a tool like this."The team's WLM research is currently awaiting peer-review.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed the once-hidden features of the protostar within the dark cloud L1527, providing insight into the beginnings of a new star. These blazing clouds within the Taurus star-forming region are only visible in infrared light, making it an ideal target for Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam).The protostar itself is hidden from view within the “neck” of this hourglass shape. An edge-on protoplanetary disk is seen as a dark line across the middle of the neck. Light from the protostar leaks above and below this disk, illuminating cavities within the surrounding gas and dust.The region’s most prevalent features, the clouds colored blue and orange in this representative-color infrared image, outline cavities created as material shoots away from the protostar and collides with surrounding matter. The colors themselves are due to layers of dust between Webb and the clouds. The blue areas are where the dust is thinnest. The thicker the layer of dust, the less blue light is able to escape, creating pockets of orange.Webb also reveals filaments of molecular hydrogen that have been shocked as the protostar ejects material away from it. Shocks and turbulence inhibit the formation of new stars, which would otherwise form all throughout the cloud. As a result, the protostar dominates the space, taking much of the material for itself.Despite the chaos that L1527 causes, it’s only about 100,000 years old - a relatively young body. Given its age and its brightness in far-infrared light as observed by missions like the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, L1527 is considered a class 0 protostar, the earliest stage of star formation. Protostars like these, which are still cocooned in a dark cloud of dust and gas, have a long way to go before they become full-fledged stars. L1527 doesn’t generate its own energy through nuclear fusion of hydrogen yet, an essential characteristic of stars. Its shape, while mostly spherical, is also unstable, taking the form of a small, hot, and puffy clump of gas somewhere between 20 and 40% the mass of our Sun....
A video interview: JWST, LUVOIR and Mind-blowing Future Projects with Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager[snip]
Experts will be available by teleconference to answer media questions about early science results from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope