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Webb’s NIRISS instrument is ready to see cosmos in over 2,000 infrared colors

NIRISS from NASA Webb ready to see the cosmos in more than 2000 infrared colors

This is a test detector image of the NIRISS instrument operating in its single-object slitless spectroscopy (SOSS) mode while pointing at a bright star. Each color seen in the image corresponds to a specific infrared wavelength between 0.6 and 2.8 microns. The black lines seen on the spectra are the telltale signatures of hydrogen atoms present in the star. NIRISS is a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) contribution to the Webb project that provides unique observation capabilities to complement the other instruments on board. Credit: NASA, CSA and NIRISS Team/Loic Albert, University of Montreal

One of the James Webb Space Telescope’s four main science instruments, known as the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph instrument (NIRISS), has completed its post-launch preparations and is now ready for science.

The last NIRISS mode to be checked off before the instrument was declared ready to begin scientific operations was the Single Object Slitless Spectroscopy (SOSS) capability. At the heart of SOSS mode is a specialized prism assembly that scatters light from 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. This mode will be used specifically to investigate the atmospheres of passing exoplanets, ie planets that periodically eclipse their star, temporarily dimming the star’s brightness. By comparing with great precision the spectra collected during and before or after a transit event, one can determine not only whether or not the exoplanet has an atmosphere, but also what atoms and molecules it contains.

James Webb Space Telescope

Artist’s concept of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: NASA

“I am so excited and excited to think that we have finally reached the end of this two-decade journey of Canada’s contribution to the mission. Not only are all four NIRISS modes ready, but the instrument as a whole performs significantly better than we had predicted. I pinch myself at the thought that we are only a few days away from the start of scientific operations, and in particular NIRISS exploring its first exoplanet atmospheres,” said René Doyon, principal investigator of NIRISS, as well as Webb’s Fine Guidance Sensor, at the University of Montreal.

With the commissioning activities completed after the launch of NIRISS, the Webb team will continue to focus on ticking off the remaining five modes on its other instruments. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA, will release its first color images and spectroscopic data on July 12, 2022.


Webb’s mid-infrared spectroscopy will reveal molecules, elements


Provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center


Quote: Webb’s NIRISS instrument is ready to see the cosmos in over 2000 infrared colors (2022, June 27) retrieved June 27, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-webb-niriss-instrument -ready-cosmos.html

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