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Mayday! Mayday! One of James Webb's most crucial instruments isn't working properly anymore

James Webb is currently having issues with its MIRI device. The issue is caused by increased friction in one of MIRI's mechanisms when operating in the Medium-Resolution Spectroscopy (MRS) mode. The observatory is otherwise in good condition, but the crew has chosen to suspend MRS observations until they discover a solution.

The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) onboard JWST is one of the most essential instruments. It enables the telescope to see in the 5 to 27 micrometre wavelength range. There are four modes on the instrument: imaging, medium-resolution spectroscopy, low-resolution spectroscopy, and coronagraphy.

The researchers discovered a grating wheel problem on August 24 while preparing for observations utilising MIRI's medium-resolution spectroscopic mode (MRS). Its purpose is to distinguish between short, medium, and long wavelengths. The telescope identified increased friction in the mechanism during the setup procedure leading to scientific observation, which produced the problem.

Here's an inside look at the MIRI in spectroscopy mode:

Following preliminary health inspections, an anomaly review board was formed on September 6 to determine the best course of action. As a result, JWST has suspended MRS observations using MIRI until a suitable solution is found. MIRI's three remaining modes are still operational. Other instruments are unaffected as well.

Prior Issues with James Webb

It is not the first time James Webb has had problems since its launch in December 2021. A larger-than-expected micrometeoroid previously struck one of JWST's mirror segments. The crew discovered enough damage, but the quality of observations continues to exceed original estimates.

This topic was discussed in this episode of Space Bites:

Despite the existing challenges, new photos should be expected. So the recent discoveries of the Tarantula and Orion Nebulae will not be the last. For the time being, the observatory can use a variety of alternative modes. Furthermore, there are many things that James Webb has seen but has not yet made public. Like the photographs taken by the TRAPPIST-1 system during its first month of scientific operation.

Hopefully, the crew will be able to solve the current problem and get the telescope back up and running.

NASA is the source.

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