Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI)

Since its launch on December 25, 2021, the James Webb Telescope has been offering scientists unprecedented views into the universe beyond Earth. This cutting-edge telescope has 17 observing modes, with the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) being one of its most vital components. However, on April 26, officials observed a sensor glitch in the MIRI’s Medium Resolution Spectroscopy (MRS) mode during routine performance monitoring and calibration.

Discrepancy in Data Found

NASA mission officials found that the MRS mode was receiving less sensor throughput than the expected amount of light, particularly at the longest wavelengths. However, they quickly identified that there was no risk to MIRI imaging and the instrument as a whole.

While the MRS mode was affected, all other observation modes within MIRI and each of Webb’s other scientific instruments remained unaffected. The MIRI observations can be continued as planned while gathering all relevant ground test and flight data to fully assess the MRS performance.

Investigation and Possible Mitigation Strategies

At present, NASA and its associates are examining the fault to recognize potential risks and seek solutions that may enhance the performance. A feasible approach to reduce the impact could be to prolong the exposures slightly at the affected wavelengths, which would augment the signal-to-noise ratio.

MIRI: Capable of Detecting Distant Objects

The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) consists of a camera and a spectrograph that enable it to detect light in the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, which has longer wavelengths than those visible to the human eye. Its detection range spans from 5 to 28 microns, and its highly sensitive detectors can identify the redshifted light of faraway galaxies, newly forming stars, and barely visible comets, as well as objects located in the Kuiper Belt. The MIRI’s medium-resolution spectroscopy provides new physical details of the distant objects it observes.




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