James Webb Telescope's MIRI instrument reaches a super chilly -266 Celsius

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,226   +158
Staff member
In brief: The James Webb Space Telescope recently passed a challenging milestone as it continues preparations for scientific missions later this year. The instruments have been passively cooling in the shade of its giant sunshield for the past few months, but one of its key components – the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) – needs to be even colder than what the dark of space can achieve by itself in order to detect longer infrared wavelengths.

To help MIRI reach its target operating temperature, engineers developed an electrically powered cryocooler. When activated, the system is able to bring the instrument down to its final operating temperature below 7 kelvins (minus 447 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 266 degrees Celsius).

On April 7, MIRI successfully achieved its final operating temperature.

"The team was both excited and nervous going into the critical activity. In the end it was a textbook execution of the procedure, and the cooler performance is even better than expected," said Analyn Schneider, project manager for MIRI at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

"We spent years practicing for that moment, running through the commands and the checks that we did on MIRI," said Mike Ressler, project scientist for MIRI at JPL. "It was kind of like a movie script: Everything we were supposed to do was written down and rehearsed. When the test data rolled in, I was ecstatic to see it looked exactly as expected and that we have a healthy instrument."

With the instrument now at the correct temperature, team members can start capturing sample photos of stars and other known objects to help calibrate the device alongside preparations for the scope's other three instruments: the near-infrared camera (NIRCam), the near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec) and the fine guidance sensor / near infrared imager and slitless spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS).

Webb's first science images are expected to be released this summer.

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Squid Surprise

Posts: 5,335   +4,980
I wonder if it would be feasible to have some servers located in deep space where cooling would be easily accomplished... naturally, latency would be an issue... but maybe for long-term storage and non-urgent calculations?
 

mrfunk

Posts: 15   +15
I wonder if it would be feasible to have some servers located in deep space where cooling would be easily accomplished... naturally, latency would be an issue... but maybe for long-term storage and non-urgent calculations?
I don't think they would last much time up there unless they were running Crysis 24/7.
 

emmzo

Posts: 630   +832
I wonder if it would be feasible to have some servers located in deep space where cooling would be easily accomplished... naturally, latency would be an issue... but maybe for long-term storage and non-urgent calculations?
I suspect the cost of taking servers to space would be much greater than the benefits. Also, lag.
 

emmzo

Posts: 630   +832
Now for sure... but I'm thinking in the future - where we might have places to manufacture already located in space...
Haha, future, who the f.. knows. I've recently read a great book, Michio Kaku's Future of Humanity, but I still can't shake this feeling we will destroy ourselves before anything cool happens. After millions of years on this Earth, our favorite topic is division and hate, instead of science.
 

fps4ever

Posts: 936   +1,364
The whole project since launch has truly been impressive. Kudos to all that worked on the JWT project to make things run so smoothly.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,821   +6,787
Haha, future, who the f.. knows. I've recently read a great book, Michio Kaku's Future of Humanity, but I still can't shake this feeling we will destroy ourselves before anything cool happens. After millions of years on this Earth, our favorite topic is division and hate, instead of science.
Yes, agreed. Humanity works better together than when separated by a narrow focus on what makes one human different from another.

However, any world "leader" sitting on a pile of nukes that thinks a nuclear war is winnable would be in dire straits if they ever decided to use them - even if there was no retaliation. As I see it, though, the rest of the world cannot give in to the threats of bullies as that only leads to further division.
 

Raytrace3D

Posts: 342   +420
I wonder if it would be feasible to have some servers located in deep space where cooling would be easily accomplished... naturally, latency would be an issue... but maybe for long-term storage and non-urgent calculations?
A challenging thing would be in hardening the server against radiation. Not too many modern CPUs these days are rated for exposure to background and high energy particle radiation and still run reliably at high frequencies. I think there would need to be some work done in this area to create something worth sticking in space to take advantage of the cold.