Friday 5 October 2012

MIRI is not alone anymore

This week, I have been mostly preparing for the second part of our James Webb Space Telescope teacher CPD which we run annually with the National Science Learning Centre.

We held the first part shortly before I left for Chile, and 28 secondary science teachers and technicians from across the UK came to Edinburgh to learn all about the telescope and the UK's involvement.

Just before the workshop, the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) had been safely delivered to NASA Goddard - a real milestone in the project, and particularly significant for us at the Royal Observatory. Professor Gillian Wright, the director of STFC's UK Astronomy Technology Centre is the Principal Investigator for MIRI and has led a European consortium of 10 different European countries in this project.

During the workshop, we treated the teachers to a live link-up with NASA Goddard, and Martyn Wells, UK ATC optical engineer. Martyn, who had been involved in our JWST CPD the previous year, was unable to be there in person this year as he had to be at Goddard for some of the initial testing of MIRI.

You can find out more about some of the people involved in MIRI here.

On Monday, we hold the second part of the CPD in York, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what the teachers have done since we last met and how they have been inspired by their trip to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

But, what has happened with JWST since then?

Well, MIRI was the first of the instruments to be delivered, and it has gone through all the necessary NASA checks since delivery and everything works as expected! Also, MIRI is no longer alone out there. Late July, the second instrument was delivered and is currently going through the same tests as MIRI did.

Even before it left the UK, MIRI had to undergo serious testing at STFC's RAL Space, including vibration testing which you can see more about in this video clip:

More recently, 2 of the mirror segments have been delivered. You can find out more about the segments in this BBC News article

Next year, all of the instruments will be tested together in a giant cryogenic chamber.

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