NASA took delivery late last month of the first of four science instruments slated to fly aboard the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) when it launches in 2018.

The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) that arrived May 29 at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., was assembled at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom as one of the European Space Agency’s contributions to the JWST program. MIRI was developed by a consortium of 10 European institutions and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., after having been handed over to the European Space Agency.

NASA said in a June 14 press release that MIRI has been undergoing inspection in preparation for installation aboard JWST’s Integrated Science Instrument Module.

MIRI is designed to observe light with wavelengths in the mid-infrared range of 5 microns to 28 microns, which is a longer wavelength than human eyes can detect. It is the only one of JWST’s four instruments with this particular ability to observe the physical processes occurring in the cosmos, NASA said in the release.

“MIRI will enable Webb to distinguish the oldest galaxies from more evolved objects that have undergone several cycles of star birth and death,” said Matt Greenhouse, the Integrated Science Instrument Module project scientist at Goddard. “MIRI also will provide a unique window into the birthplaces of stars, which are typically enshrouded by dust that shorter wavelength light cannot penetrate.”



First JWST Instrument Handed Over to NASA