James Webb is now on its way to the second Lagrange point where it will begin the most advanced observations in history. Credit: NASA

The James Webb Space Telescope Is Experiencing Issues

According to NASA, the James Webb Space Telescope is experiencing issues with its mid-infrared instrument. The telescope is located 1.6 million kilometers from Earth.


The James Webb Space Telescope, a ten-billion-dollar technological wonder, has changed our understanding of the universe, despite being operational for no more than a few months. Located 1.6 million kilometers from Earth, the space telescope is a lonely explorer whose only connection to Earth is its antennas that deliver scientific data. It is too far away for any current preparatory mission, which means that if something breaks down, scientists can only attempt to fix minor problems from Earth. Now, NASA has reported some issues with the operations of the space telescope.

NASA reports that the MIRI mid-infrared instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope is currently experiencing issues. This instrument was involved in some of the observatory’s first unprecedented observations. In the medium resolution spectroscopy (MRS) observation mode, MIRI detected increased friction in one of its mechanisms on August 24. NASA reports that the rest of the system works normally, but the team has decided to stop using MRS mode until it can be resolved. Among the most important instruments on board, JWST is the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). The telescope is able to see objects between the wavelengths of 5 and 27 micrometers.

James Webb Space Telescope Image with annotations of the Orion Nebula. Image Credit: Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Data reduction and analysis : PDRs4All ERS Team; graphical processing S. Fuenmayor.

A total of four modes are available on the instrument: imaging, spectroscopy in medium resolution, spectroscopy in low resolution, and colonography. MRS’s second mode makes use of a grating wheel, which allows scientists to choose between short, medium and long wavelengths when observing with that mode. A review board for anomalies was convened on September 6 after preliminary checks and investigations into the issue. As part of their ongoing analysis of this particular observing mode, Webb’s team has stopped scheduling MRS observations and is currently developing strategies for resuming them as soon as possible. The remaining three MIRI observing modes (imaging, low-resolution spectroscopy, and coronagraphy) continue to function normally and remain available for research purposes.

Seven of Neptune's 14 known moons can be found in Webb's image: Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus, Larissa, and Triton. Among Neptune's moons, Triton is the largest and most unusual. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI.
Seven of Neptune’s 14 known moons can be found in Webb’s image: Galatea, Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Proteus, Larissa, and Triton. Among Neptune’s moons, Triton is the largest and most unusual. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI.

Recently the JWST has delivered stunning views of our solar system. It has observed Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune, offering scientists with unprecedented views of our solar system’s planets. Images of Neptune, for example, offer scientists a stunning view of the Ice Giant revealing faint rings circling the distant world.


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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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