James Webb Space Telescope has malfunction: One of the instruments stops working

January 26, 2023  12:20

At the James Webb Space Observatory malfunction detected: the device NIRISS (Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph) stopped working.

According to NASA, January 15, when the experts tried to establish contact with this device, they encountered a delay in communication, which led to problems with its software. At present, NASA specialists and colleagues from Canada are working to find the cause of the malfunction. According to available information, the equipment itself is not damaged – the cause of the problem is in the software.

While the device remains unavailable for scientific observations, however, the other instruments of the telescope work normally. Scientific work using NIRISS, which was scheduled for the coming days, will be postponed.

NIRISS, developed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), can operate in four different modes: it can work as a camera when other telescope instruments are busy, can analyze light signatures to study the atmosphere of small exoplanets, can make high-contrast images; it also has a mode for looking for distant galaxies.

The James Webb Space Telescope was launched in December 2021 and has been making scientific observations since July 2022. During this time, the telescope has already encountered problems and malfunctions: the problem with NIRISS – not the first. In August, for example, the grating wheel inside the mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) began to jam. Since this wheel is only used in one of the four observation modes, the specialists decided to suspend these observations and use MIRI only in the other three modes.

By November, engineers had figured out the cause of the problem and began to develop recommendations for safe use of the instrument in the problem mode as well.

Besides, in December, the observatory malfunctioned for two weeks and switched to safe mode, which interrupted scientific observations. Engineers attributed the problem to a software failure in the observatory's orientation control system. On December 20, however, the telescope returned to normal operation.


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