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New Space Telescope Completed and Ready to Head to NASA

May 16, 2012; 11:30 AM ET

After more than 10 years of work by more than 200 scientists and engineers, the MIRI instrument (which is short for Mid-InfraRed Instrument), which will fly on the James Webb Space Telescope is ready to be shipped to NASA. This telescope will eventually be the successor to the Hubble space telescope. MIRI, a pioneering camera and spectrograph, is so sensitive it could see a candle on one of Jupiter's moons. Key components of MIRI have been designed and built at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will explore the era of the first stars, trace the assembly of early galaxies and examine in detail the birth of stars and planetary systems and the characteristics of planets around distant stars.

In order to reach its ambitious scientific goals, JWST will not only rely on its 6.5 meter mirror (compared to Hubble's 2.4 meter) but also on a suite of four sensitive instruments. The first of these instruments to be completed, the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), has today been handed over to NASA in a ceremony at the Institute of Engineering and Technology in London.

MIRI will now be transported to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland in a specially constructed environmental container designed to protect it from moisture and keep the temperature stable. Once there, it will start the long process of integration with the other instruments, two years of testing to ensure that they all function together correctly, and then integration and test with the telescope optics. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for 2018.

An image of the MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument)

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Astronomy Blog
The astronomy blog, by Mark Paquette, discusses stargazing and astronomy issues and how the weather will interact with current astronomy events.