Last year, the James Webb Telescope’s initial pictures made headlines in the scientific world. Some of the most intricate, amazing, and stunning images of deep space ever captured by humans can be found in the telescope’s images.
Many cutting-edge technologies on board the telescope are the secret to the otherworldly photos, and they all operate in harmony to produce intricate, previously unseen images.
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In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the imaging equipment on the James Webb Telescope in order to understand how the telescope is producing such remarkable results.
Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam)
The near-infrared camera on the James Webb Telescope is the instrument’s principal imager (NIRCam).
The University of Arizona team that developed the NIRCam is used to find the light with wavelengths between 0.6 and 6 micrometers. This image seeks to find light coming from distant stars in the Kuiper Belt as well as galaxies and stars that are still in the early stages of development.
The NIRCam has a large number of coronagraphs to image challenging objects. These gadgets deflect light from brighter things, enabling imaging of neighboring fainter and dimmer objects.
On a more fundamental level, the NIRCam has ten mercury-cadmium-telluride (HgCdTe) detector arrays that function similarly to charge-coupled devices (CCDs) in traditional digital cameras in terms of picture capturing.
The NIRCam is made up of two almost similar, completely redundant modules that each point to different fields of vision in the sky. The two modules can be utilized concurrently and can simultaneously examine the short wavelength channel (0.6-2.3 m) and the long wavelength channel (2.4-5.0 m).
Near-infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec)
One of the most exciting pieces of imaging hardware on the James Webb Telescope is the near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec).
The best way to describe NIRSpec is as a multi-object near-infrared spectrograph. This instrument separates incident light into its individual color components for more in-depth analysis. In order to study star formation and the chemical makeup of far-off galaxies, the James Webb Telescope employs NIRSpec to detect near-infrared wavelengths.
The device’s sophisticated micro shutter assembly, a feature that enables NIRSpec to examine more than 100 objects concurrently, is among the most outstanding technological achievements of the instrument.
Four 1.5-inch squares, each with a unique array of 62,000 minuscule shutters, make up the micro shutter assembly. The shutters, which are rectangular shapes measuring 100 mm by 200 mm, selectively open and close to only let in light from objects that the NIRSPec’s detector has been trained on. The light is then concentrated into one sharp point that produces the sharpest image imaginable.
The arrays are made of silicon nitride wafers, and the shutter doors are laced with magnetic strips that are contained inside an electrically charged metal box.
When the shutters are closed, a magnet sweeps over them, repelling the magnetic strips on the doors and opening them all. The doors are then closed when the magnet passes by again after the electronic controllers have applied voltages to the shutters that are supposed to be closed.
The doors that are lined up with the object that the NIRSpec is intended to examine are the only ones that can be left open thanks to the micro shutter mechanism.
Also read: Technology and Innovation Report 2023