USA: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is back in operation. On January 15, one of Webb's instruments, the Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), encountered a problem that caused its scientific observations to be halted. The telescope, fortunately, recovered from the technical glitch and resumed normal operations on Monday (January 30).
The Webb telescope was launched into space in December 2021 and has been collecting scientific data through July 2022. Billed as the world's largest, most powerful and most complex space telescope ever built, Webb has provided breathtaking views of the universe. However, this is not the first time the $10 billion powerful device has run into difficulties.
On January 15, the NIRISS instrument experienced "a communications delay" that caused "its flight software to time out." The glitch prevented the instrument from performing its measurement. NASA confirmed in a statement that there was no indication of any threat to the hardware and that the observatory and other instruments were in good working order.
NIRISS is capable of detecting the light signals of small exoplanet atmospheres, performing high-contrast imaging, and studying distant galaxies. According to NASA, the device can operate normally in four different modes. It can also act as a camera when other JWST devices are busy.
Because Webb's NIRISS instrument was provided by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), NASA and CSA personnel collaborated to solve the problem.
When NIRISS encountered a timeout problem, it stopped its observations and ran a series of tests. The results of the tests confirmed that the NIRISS hardware was in good working order, and the equipment was recovered on 27 January.
"Following a successful test observation, the instrument resumed normal science observations on January 30," NASA explained in a blog post. "Observations affected by the pause in NIRISS operations will be rescheduled," the statement said.
In August 2022, a problem occurred with the grating wheel inside Webb's mid-infrared instrument. (MIRI). On the other hand, MIRI could observe while the recovery operation was underway because the wheel was only needed for one of MIRI's four observation modes. In November, the problem was resolved.