The UK’s main contribution to the James Webb Space Telescope, the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), has been carefully cooled to its operational temperature.
The James Webb Space Telescope, known as Webb, is the largest, most powerful telescope ever launched into space and MIRI is one of four scientific instruments on board.
The James Webb Space Telescope will study the weirdly flickering black hole at the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way, which has proved elusive for existing telescopes to explore.
James Edwin Webb was an American government official who served as the second appointed administrator of NASA during the 1960s. From 1961 to 1968, he ran the fledgling space agency and was largely responsible for its approach to the Apollo program and its success
MIRI was last to reach this important milestone as it operates at 7 kelvin (-266 Celsius), a colder temperature than the other instruments.
To reach this temperature, MIRI needed to be actively cooled by a cryogenic refrigerator, or cryocooler.
I have been involved in the thermal design, analysis and testing for MIRI for almost 20 years so to finally see the instrument reaching 7 kelvin in space and well on its way to science operations is incredibly exciting.
Dr Bryan Shaughnessy
The UK played a major role by leading the European Consortium which, partnered with JPL and other US institutes, designed, built, and tested MIRI.
It is fantastic to know that the instrument has successfully reached operating temperature.