6 September 2013
ESA Science and Robotic Exploration Communication Officer
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ESA JWST Project Manager
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ESA has completed the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, one of two instruments it is contributing to the international James Webb Space Telescope, a space observatory set for launch on an Ariane 5 rocket in 2018.
It will boast a segmented primary mirror spanning a total of 6.5 m in diameter, making it the largest astronomical telescope in space. This mirror will feed light to four state-of-the art science instruments, including the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, or NIRSpec, which has been built for ESA by Astrium GmbH in Germany.
NIRSpec is designed to detect the light from the first stars and galaxies that formed in the young Universe, roughly 400 million years after the Big Bang, a time when conditions were very different to today, some 13.8 billion years later.
It will split the infrared light from these objects into its colour components – a spectrum – providing scientists with vital information on their chemical composition, dynamical properties, age and distance. NIRSpec will be able to observe up to 100 such objects simultaneously.
James Webb Space Telescope
A very versatile instrument, NIRSpec will also be used to study the early phases of stellar birth across our Milky Way galaxy, and to analyse the atmospheric properties of planets in orbit around other stars, assessing the potential for life on worlds elsewhere in the Universe.
“The formal handover of NIRSpec from Astrium to ESA marks an important and exciting milestone in Europe’s contribution to the JWST mission,” said Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, speaking at a ceremony held today at Astrium GmbH in Ottobrunn, Germany.
See the full article here.
The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.
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