Since the James Webb Telescope went live, it’s already changing our understanding of the universe, one beautiful image at a time. Despite ten years of preparation and his cost of over $10 billion, even engineering masterpieces like this are not immune to the risk of accidents and malfunctions. And today, after the first micrometeorite impact that damaged (albeit superficially) the primary mirror last June, Webb faces a new danger today. It’s his one glitch in the mechanism required for the operation of mid-infrared devices (or millimeters). This forced ESA and NASA to stop using it, at least temporarily.
Milli is one of four instruments Webb is equipped with for scientific observations. It is a combination infrared camera and spectroscope and is the telescope’s only observational instrument capable of capturing mid-infrared frequencies with wavelengths between 5 and 28.3 microns. In a nutshell, any problem turns out to be truly catastrophic, as the Webb telescope deprives us of one of our cosmic-observing eyes.
As NASA and ESA explained in their statements, the current problem began on August 24th. At this time, two agency technicians, one of Milli’s four observation modes, Medium Resolution Spectroscopy (Medium Resolution Spectroscopy, or Msr), something went wrong. The gear-like mechanism exhibited excessive friction during observation, forcing the agency to set up a scientific committee to investigate the matter. A panel of experts met on September 6 last year and decided to stop using MSRs and discontinue pending new tests to determine if and how they solve the problem.
“The telescope is healthy – it reads In a press release issued by ESA – Milli’s other three observation modes, a thermal imaging camera, low-resolution spectroscopy and colonography, are operating normally and will continue to be available for scientific observations. In fact, medium-resolution spectroscopy is designed to study the birth and evolution of galaxies, and without it, Not to mention being a true immature one.