“One of the rules for building airplanes is to have as few moving points as possible,” said Andy Bunker, Oxford University astrophysicist. “And that’s why we built something of a quarter of a million replacements.”
Bunker talks about NIRSpec, the Near Infrared Spectrograph, one of the four instruments in the world. The James Webb Space Telescope, preparing to open their eyes to the world. He was one of seven European scientists who developed the NIRSpec project (sponsored by Elepa Space Agency), and is currently waiting for the player to begin providing data.
“I’ve always wanted to fly the border because it’s so obvious,” Bunker told Space.com. “Before we record the story. It’s about understanding the first stages of the universe, when the first stars and galaxies were formed. And we’re trying to chase after this. “
Select: The James Webb Space Telescope: Scientific Mysteries That Other Observers Can’t Unravel
With his giant 21.6 foot-wide (6.5 meters) glassWebb was built to learn the ancient and distant the stars which came out of the youth the whole world from the dust and gas after the dark years after Big Bang. It works by looking at infrared light, a heat -carrying portion of the electromagnetic spectrum with longer wavelengths than visible light. Scientists have found that while the first stars emitted visible light, because of their long distances and the expansion of the universe, this light moved to the infrared portion of the spectrum, resulting in called the red.
NIRSpec, with its quarterly million microshutters, will give Webb’s powers a boost. In fact, the NIRSPec is more than a hundred times the capacity of a similar instrument flown in. Hubble Space TelescopeThat is, in many ways, Webb was originally intended (although the two would work together, for some time).
NIRSPec may not be the manufacturer that produces the best images like the popular images of let it be done and terrified deep field from Hubble. That’s what NIRCam and MIRI cameras do.
However, NIRSpec will provide a lot of information about galaxies only, hoku and stars printed by NIRCam and MIRI, but hundreds and thousands more.
As a spectrograph, NIRSpec does not take images. It separates incoming light into individual parts of the light spectrum. This spectrum, like a fingerprint, reflects the lightening properties of the objects being filmed and so does their composition. Each chemical in the body is known to absorb light in a certain way, presenting as a separate line in the captured spectrum. By capturing the spectrum of an object, researchers can determine what the chemical compounds contain.
“In science, the spectra are very valuable,” Bunker said. “There’s a lot of information stored in them. We can get to know how chemicals are built up in galaxies, but also determine the distances and properties of the galaxies. galaxes, just as quickly as they convert their gas into stars. “
In order to accurately capture the fingerprints of these objects, spectrographs must block all other light from their field of vision. Ordinary spectrographs, such as those at Hubble, use a sliver, a narrow hole in a metal plate where they search for what has been studied.
“The part where you can be as simple as you can be,” Bunker said. “But the border is doing one thing at a time. It’s not very good, even if you look at one of the deep gardens where you get high levels of interest.”
Add to that some of the things Webb learns that they are so far away and faint that they have to look at them for hundreds of hours to gather light, and see the limits of that path.
The spectrography is enhanced
This is where the microshutters of NIRSPec come into play. Each is the same width as a human hair, these micro-shutters can open in a variety of ways, making it easy to create a wide range of pieces that astronomers can see and see. measuring a hundred (or more) galaxies at the same time, Bunker said.
The first spectrograph of its kind to fly in the air, NIRSpec demonstrates a range of new technologies. The microshutter array itself, developed by engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, is organized into four compartments, each with 365 to 171 microshutters.
An electrically sealed magnet is removed after these procedures. By using an electrical current to each microshutter, global control organizations decide which switches should be opened and closed. Engineers are not able to remove microshutters as close to each other as the tip of the observed object. It offers the ability to learn about one hundred subjects at the same time.
“These microshutters are fragile so we think some of them will fall,” Bunker said. “It doesn’t matter because we can use other things. Someone can also hold it open, add another light, but only a little bit.”
It’s a game changer
The large number of stars, galaxies, galaxies, constellations and other bodies observed by NIRSpec allows scientists to begin to answer important questions not related to stars and galaxies. galaxies, but all over the world.
“NIRSpec is going to be a game changer,” Bunker said. “The more things we can fix we can start to see how the different types depend on each other.
With the help of NIRSpec, astronomers can not only see the first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe, but also see what happened and how, when they died, they raised other chemicals. the world as we know it today.
“We knew that hydrogen and helium were created in the Big Bang,” Bunker said. “But all the heavy things that are done in the stars during their lifetime are when they die. So as a function of time, we need to increase the number and most of these weights are in galaxies. And we think we measure that exactly. “
Opening its doors
Since Webb’s arrival on his tour in January, that’s what it’s been called Lae Lagrange 2 (L2) about 930,000 miles (1 million kilometers) from Earth, the telescope has cooled to its working temperature below 369.4 degrees Fahrenheit (less than 223 degrees Celsius). Because Webb follows infrared light and because infrared light is really hot, every heat emitted by the telescope itself entertains its important observers.
With Webb as cool as it should be, his four instruments are slowly opening their “eyes” (or micro-shutters), allowing scientists to, for first time, test their work not in an office, but in a real environment. of the air.
“We have a lot of work to do for NIRSpec over the next three months,” Bunker said. “We’re counting how many replacements can be used and what they mean.
The public will have to wait until the beginning of July to finally see the universe through the eyes of the hardest and most expensive telescope ever built.
Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.