Glitch hits James Webb Space Telescope! Gone forever? Big setback for NASA | Tech News

Glitch hits James Webb Space Telescope! Gone forever? Big setback for NASA

In a big setback for NASA, the James Webb Space Telescope's NIRISS instrument is currently unavailable due to a glitch. Here's what happened.

| Updated on: Jan 26 2023, 22:47 IST
NASA reveals stunning Jupiter images captured by James Webb Space Telescope
James Webb Telescope
1/6 Amazingly, currently, on Jupiter, there are auroras, storms, extreme temperatures and powerful winds stirring things up, according to NASA. The images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope could give scientists a look at the conditions of the gas giant. (NASA)
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2/6 Planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, professor emerita of the University of California, Berkeley said, “We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest. It’s really remarkable that we can see details on Jupiter together with its rings, tiny satellites, and even galaxies in one image.” (NASA)
James Webb Telescope
3/6 The images were captured by the telescope's Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) instrument on July 27, which highlighted the planet's unique features. According to NASA, the NIRCam has three specialized infrared filters that showcase details of the planet. (AFP)
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4/6 The image was created by compositing several images. Auroras are visible near the Northern and Southern poles of the planet. According to NASA, the auroras shine in a filter that is mapped to redder colors, which also highlights light reflected from lower clouds and upper hazes. (NASA)
James Webb Telescope
5/6 The Great Red Spot as well as other clouds can be visible in the images as white since it is reflecting the sunlight. The Great Red Spot is a giant vortex which has been swirling around on Jupiter’s surface for a long time. Jupiter’s 2 moons, Amalthea and Adrastea can also be seen “photo-bombing” the planet. (REUTERS)
James Webb Telescope
6/6 Thierry Fouchet, a professor at the Paris Observatory, as part of an international collaboration for Webb’s Early Release Science program said, “This one image sums up the science of our Jupiter system program, which studies the dynamics and chemistry of Jupiter itself, its rings, and its satellite system.” (NASA/AFP)
James Webb Telescope
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The James Webb Telescope’s instrument is currently unavailable for observations. (Wikimedia Commons)

Since its launch on 25th December 2021, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has provided us with numerous stunning images and information. It has looked back in time almost as far as the Big Bang itself. However, NASA just suffered a big setback as the NIRISS (Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) instrument on the telescope has experienced a communications delay. It caused its flight software to time out, NASA said in a statement. The Webb telescope's instrument is currently unavailable for science observations.

Notably, James Webb Telescope had suffered another setback when its main mirror was hit by a meteorite. It had affected the data. It left a permanent 'dimple'. How bad is the current problem? “..While NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) work together to determine and correct the root cause of the delay. There is no indication of any danger to the hardware, and the observatory and other instruments are all in good health. The affected science observations will be rescheduled,” Thaddeus Cesari, a NASA official said in the press release.

What is the role of Webb's NIRISS

NASA's James Webb Telescope has four scientific instruments, and NIRISS is one of them. It provides observing modes for slitless spectroscopy, high-contrast interferometric imaging, and imaging. NASA says that it is the only instrument that is capable of Aperture masking interferometry (AMI) through specific filters, enabled by a mask with 7 sub-apertures. It helps the telescope to capture bright celestial objects including small exoplanets at high resolution.

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The James Webb Telescope suffered another glitch last year in August in its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI)- one of its four observing modes was affected. MIRI exhibited what appeared to be increased friction during setup for a science observation. This mechanism works as a grating wheel which helps scientists to select between short, medium, and longer wavelengths when making observations using the MRS mode.

However, by November, scientists detected the cause of the issue. Apart from this, in December 2022, the telescope suffered another glitch which repeatedly sent the telescope into safe mode. Thankfully, the telescope came back to its normal operation from that issue on December 20.

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First Published Date: 26 Jan, 22:46 IST