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DIAS scientists part of team to work on world’s most powerful telescope


Update (14.03.2022): We are very proud that scientists from DIAS have played a key role in developing the ground-breaking James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which launched on Christmas day 2021.DIAS is the only Irish research organisation involved in JWST, and not just at the development stage. We will be involved in the collection and analysis of data via the MIRI once operational.

The MIRI will reach operating temperature later this month and will begin commissioning observations in April. Dr. Patrick Kavanagh will travel to the Webb Mission Operations Centre in Baltimore next month to work MIRI commissioning. There he will monitor the health of the instrument, review observation plans, and analyse observational data.

Original post (21.12.2021) :A team of scientists from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) have played a key role in developing the ground-breaking James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is scheduled to launch from the Guiana Space Centre on Christmas day, 25th December 2021 at 12.20pm.

The JWST is the largest and most powerful space telescope ever built and it is expected to transform our understanding of the universe.

Over the course of its 10-year mission, the telescope will collect more light than any other telescope, looking deeper into space to see the earliest stars, planets and galaxies in the universe, and study how they were formed.

Jointly developed by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency it will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship astrophysics mission.

DIAS connection
The telescope will use improved infrared technology to observe the universe, which will allow it to see through dust and gas in ways other telescopes, like the Hubble, cannot. Involved in the development of the infrared instrument, was a team of Irish scientists from DIAS: Professor Tom Ray and Dr. Patrick Kavanagh.

Tom Ray is a Senior Professor and Director of Cosmic Physics at DIAS, and is Co-Principal Investigator for the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) – one of four instruments on the Webb Telescope.

MIRI is a camera and a spectrograph that observes mid to long infrared radiation. It also has a coronagraph (a specialised instrument designed to block out the light of a star), especially for observing exoplanets. MIRI will be key in enabling the telescope to study the universe with an unprecedented level of detail.

Dr. Patrick Kavanagh, also from DIAS, is a member of the international MIRI team. He will participate in commissioning the instrument at the Webb Mission Operations Centre in Baltimore, early in the new year. His work will involve analysing and interpreting the data that will be collected by the Webb Telescope.

Speaking about the launch, Professor Tom Ray, said: “Irish research has played a vital role in the development of the James Webb Space Telescope which will transform our knowledge of the universe. The observations this telescope will collect will help scientists answer some of the big questions about the cosmos. Such as, what did the early universe look like, how did the first galaxies evolve and how and where do stars and planets form?

“It is a really exciting project to be involved in, and over the coming months and years as the Webb telescope journeys through space I look forward to the findings and surprises it will bring us. I’ve no doubt that it will have a truly transformational effect on astronomy, and it is testament to the platform DIAS holds on the international stage in astronomy and astrophysics that we have such strong Irish involvement in this project.”

Support for Ireland’s involvement came from Enterprise Ireland through the European Space Agency’s PRODEX Programme.