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New space telescope to uncover secrets and techniques of Universe’s origins

Credit: NASA

The NASA-led James Webb Space Telescope, which incorporates {hardware} designed and constructed at UCL and which is able to picture the very first stars to shine within the Universe, is scheduled to be launched into space later this month.

The telescope, one of many nice space observatories following Hubble, will probably be launched on-board the Ariane rocket from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana on or after Friday 24 December. It will take 30 days for the telescope to achieve the Lagrange level 2, about one million miles from Earth, the place it should start working. UCL astronomers will probably be among the many first to analyse its observations of the Universe.

The mission—a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – is anticipated to make breakthrough discoveries in all fields of astronomy by investigating the sunshine of the Universe at (invisible) infrared wavelengths.

A crew on the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory designed and constructed a key piece of {hardware} for one of many telescope’s 4 devices, a near-infrared spectrometer referred to as the NIRSpec. About the dimensions of a double mattress, the NIRSpec measures mild break up into completely different wavelengths.

The UCL-built part, referred to as the Calibration Source, consists of 11 mini-telescopes projecting mild right into a sphere, the output of which produces a fair illumination of the NIRSpec detectors.

This reference illumination reveals the sensitivity and association of each a part of NIRSpec’s optics and detectors to completely different wavelengths of sunshine, permitting astronomers to extra exactly measure the properties of sunshine emitted by planets, stars and galaxies.

Professor Mark Cropper (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory) mentioned: “The launch of James Webb is a landmark moment for science. UCL’s contribution took place over 14 years, between 1997 and 2010. Our unit, the Calibration Source, aims to ensure astronomers can measure the faintest signals from the early Universe as precisely as possible. It does this by flooding the NIRSpec optics and detectors with uniform light, revealing the varying sensitivities of different parts of the detectors to different wavelengths. In doing so, it will help astronomers determine the age and motions of the oldest stars we can see and the properties of the oldest galaxies.”

Chris Brockley-Blatt (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory), who managed the undertaking at UCL, mentioned: “I am delighted that a component built at our laboratory will be playing a role in one of the major scientific endeavours of the 21st century.”

The last work to design and construct the part happened between 2005 and 2010. UCL scientists and engineers, supported by researchers at Durham University, additionally constructed a bigger duplicate of the unit along with different tools in order that NIRSpec might be rigorously examined on Earth at minus 30 levels.

Meanwhile, two UCL astronomers, Professor Richard Ellis and Dr. Aayush Saxena, will probably be analysing the primary cycles of observations from James Webb to probe the evolution of the first stars, galaxies and black holes.

Professor Ellis (UCL Physics & Astronomy), who was the one Europe-based member of the 1995 “HST and beyond” strategic committee that proposed what would later be often called the James Webb Space Telescope, mentioned: “This is a hugely exciting development! After 25 years of hard work by hundreds of scientists and engineers, we are about to witness a revolution in observational astronomy comparable to that achieved by the famous Hubble Space Telescope. One of the key goals of James Webb is to witness and characterise ‘cosmic dawn’ – the time when galaxies and stars first emerged from darkness. We believe this important event occurred between 250 and 350 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only 2% of its present age and that James Webb is capable of directly observing it.”

Another UCL astrophysicist, Professor Michael Barlow (UCL Physics & Astronomy) is a member of the European Science Team for James Webb’s mid-infrared imager (MIRI), which entails advising the instrument crew and planning the way to use 450 hours of MIRI’s statement time. He is co-leading a programme of observations of the remnant of Supernova 1987A, one of many brightest exploding stars astronomers have ever seen.

Video: James Webb Space Telescope: A new view of the universe

New space telescope to uncover secrets and techniques of Universe’s origins (2021, December 18)
retrieved 18 December 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-12-space-telescope-uncover-secrets-universe.html

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