Houston, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has a problem! Untimely death in offing? | Tech News

Houston, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has a problem! Untimely death in offing?

The ultracold camera on the NASA James Webb Space Telescope has been hit by a glitch. This has been affecting its Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), one of the crucial components on JWST. What will happen now?

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Sep 23 2022, 13:16 IST
NASA reveals stunning Jupiter images captured by James Webb Space Telescope
James Webb Space 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 Space 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 Space 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 Space 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 Space Telescope
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Can the NASA James Webb Space Telescope survive the strange glitch? Find out. (NASA)

Houston, we have a problem! This iconic phrase has been used exhaustively to signal that things are really looking bad for the person or thing in question. It may as well be applied to the James Webb Space Station which has run into a massive problem some 1 million miles from Earth. After enchanting the world for the last three months with breathtaking, never-seen-before images, the NASA James Webb Space Telescope has faced an unexpected challenge. The space telescope is experiencing a technical glitch. This glitch affects the ultracold camera linked to the mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) of the telescope. MIRI is one of the two most important components of the telescope and plays an important role in the images it captures. With this sudden challenge popping up, scientists were forced to postpone some observations scheduled for this week. But the bigger shadow that looms is what will happen to the JWST now? Is there a way to fix the glitch or will scientists lose one of the major functionalities on it? Read on to find out.

NASA James Webb Space Telescope faces unexpected tech challenge

This particular glitch has been impacting the grating wheel of MIRI. This wheel is important for scientists to adjust the wavelength of light to see an object clearly. The wheel doesn't render the entire instrument useless however. It is used in one of the four observation modes of MIRI called medium-resolution spectroscopy (MRS) mode. Using this mode, the instrument captures light spectra.

According to a NASA statement, this glitch was first spotted by the scientists in late August. After an investigation, it has been decided to pause that mode for observation. “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,” NASA officials wrote in the statement.

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It appears that NASA has not given up on the feature and are now in process to determine the best way to fix it and continue the mission. The statement further reassured, “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”.

This is not the first time the JWST has faced an unexpected challenge. In its early days of deployment, a meteoroid hit its mirror resulting in big damage. Back then, NASA stated that the impact was greater than they expected but it is not uncommon for a space telescope to endure such hits.

Do you know: “Houston, we have a problem” is a popular but slightly inaccurate quotation from the radio communications between the Apollo 13 astronauts Jack Swigert, Jim Lovell and the NASA Mission Control Center ("Houston") during the Apollo 13 spaceflight in 1970, as the astronauts communicated their discovery of the explosion that crippled their spacecraft to mission control.

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First Published Date: 23 Sep, 13:14 IST
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