James Webb telescope instrument goes super-cold to see the birth of the first galaxies

James Webb telescope instrument goes super-cold to see the birth of the first galaxies
  • Webb’s telescope instrument hits -266 degrees Celsius.
  • MIRI is jointly developed by NASA and ESA.
  • The James Webb Telescope aims to see the birth of our universe.
Nasa’s James Webb Telescope has achieved its operating temperature of minus 266 degrees Celsius. This super-cold temperature will help in finding the clues of our existence right after the Big Bang.

Along with Webb's telescope, three other instruments were cooled off by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) in the shade of Webb’s tennis court-size sunshield by dropping the temperature to minus 183 Celsius. The cooling ability improves when the temperature gets lower and if cooling is not achieved quickly then certain heat loads will lead to making MIRI instruments super warm. Last week, the team has also achieved the milestone of dropping instrument temperature from minus 258 to minus 267-degree Celsius.

Why do Webb’s instruments need to be this cold?
Webb’s telescope has to observe the universe in infrared light. The stars and distant galaxies are hidden or surrounded by dust and they emit infrared light and so does Webb’s electronic system. According to Nasa, the cooling down of all four instruments and hardware will suppress infrared emissions from instruments. The cold temperature will suppress dark currents that are created by the vibration of atoms. These vibrations give the false impression that they have been hit by light from an external source. Reducing the temperature means less vibration, which in turn means less dark current.

Still, there’s a lot of work for Webb’s telescope. Once it reached L2 it has to be aligned in 18 hexagonal mirror segments of the telescope’s primary mirror. Once the alignment is complete it can see the first images of galaxies by this summer.


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