Webb Space Telescope Sees With UK Contribution

19th Jul 2022
Webb Space Telescope Sees With UK Contribution

NASA’s release of images from the Webb Space Telescope astound. If you haven’t been to the project website to see them, some incredible photographs are circulating on Twitter and other social media platforms. NASA’s James Webb Telescope has provided us all with unprecedented images of Deep Space. These full-colour images of planets, nebulae, and galaxies of light years away from Earth represent an incredible milestone in the history of space exploration. But how did the UK contribute?

Studying the atmospheres of exoplanets

One of the objectives of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is to evaluate the atmospheres of exoplanets that the European Space Agency PLATO science mission has identified. This is critical in understanding their potential for hosting life. 

UK scientists have secured leading roles in this prestigious NASA mission. The result keeps the UK at the forefront of space science research around the world. 

Building the Mid InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) for JWST

The UK also led the European Consortium in building the Mid InfraRed Instrument (MIRI). Webb’s Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) houses this instrument and three others. 

MIRI utilises faint infrared light that the human eye cannot view. However, utilising this wavelength helps the Webb telescope to peer far into the past. Webb therefor can observe galaxies that are very far away, as well as newly forming planets and stars. 

IR is used by MIRI because it is able to penetrate the dust clouds, which are very dense and surround newly forming planets and stars. This is something visible light is not able to do. 

For the MIRI project, the UK has provided scientific leadership, instrument design, and we have managed the entire project.

Inspiring the next generation of UK engineers and researchers

There is no denying that these space images have made big news. People widely share the astonishing photographs of the Universe online. Human stars like Sir Lewis Hamilton marvel over them and share them with their followers.

We are sure that these incredible images will only further end up inspiring the next generation of UK engineers and researchers.

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