The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is located 15,00,000 lakh kilometers away from Earth has bounced back from a major glitch that hit its supercold Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) camera. The scientific observations on the telescope have resumed after details investigation and mitigation implemented by the Webb team.
The Mid-InfraRed Instrument is a suit of instruments that covers the mid-infrared wavelength range from 5 to 28.3 microns, giving the telescope the ability to look into the infrared. MIRI is used to produce mid-infrared images and spectra with an unprecedented combination of sharpness and sensitivity.
The world’s most powerful observatory suffered the glitch on August 24 following a change in the frictional torque in one of the grating wheels of the Medium Resolution Spectrometer (MRS) on MIRI. As the telescope showed an error, the team paused science observations using this mode.
A team of experts has, since then, conducted an in-depth investigation of the mechanism design, as well as historical and post-launch data. The Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates the Webb observatory in space, said that the team concluded that the most likely root cause of the observed issue is increased contact forces between the wheel central bearing assembly’s sub-components under certain conditions.
“A set of recommendations on how to use the affected mechanism during science operations is being defined. An engineering test demonstrating new operational parameters for the grating wheel mechanism was successfully executed on November 2, 2022,” the STScI said in a statement.
With the glitch now fixed, the team will use the supercold camera for science observations and are poised to observe Saturn’s polar regions.
“The JWST team will schedule additional MRS science observations, initially at a highly-orchestrated cadence with additional trending measurements to monitor the new operational regime of the mechanism to prepare MIRI’s MRS mode for a return to full science scheduling,” the institute added.
This is not the first time that the telescope has reported damage, the $10 billion observatory sustained a micrometeoroid impact during the final phases of commissioning ahead of beginning science operations. Nasa had said that between May 23 and 25 the James Webb Space Telescope sustained an impact on one of its primary mirror segments. However, the spacecraft had been performing optimally, looking at the edge of time.