The last piece of the James Webb Space Telescope’s heart was installed inside the world’s largest cleanroom at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The Goddard cleanroom is Class 10,000.
What looked like a massive black frame covered with wires and aluminum foil, the heart or Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) now contains all four of Webb’s science instruments. Together, these instruments will help unlock the history of our universe, from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of stellar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own solar system.
Teams of engineers had to navigate very cramped spaces with delicate materials and finished surgically implanting the last of the four instruments that will fly on the Webb telescope – the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, or NIRSpec.[video:http://youtu.be/bSQtAR6oc7M]
The Near Infrared Camera (NIRCam) is Webb’s primary imager that will cover the infrared wavelength range 0.6 to 5 microns. NIRCam will detect light from: the earliest stars and galaxies in the process of formation; the population of stars in nearby galaxies; as well as young stars in the Milky Way and Kuiper Belt objects. NIRCam is equipped with coronagraphs, instruments that allow astronomers to take pictures of very faint objects around a central bright object, like stellar systems. NIRCam’s coronagraphs work by blocking a brighter object’s light, making it possible to view the dimmer object nearby – just like shielding the sun from your eyes with an upraised hand can allow you to focus on the view in front of you. With the coronagraphs, astronomers hope to determine the characteristics of planets orbiting nearby stars.
The NIRCam instrument was built and designed by the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin.[video:http://youtu.be/KW7imWxwdNo]