Scientists Are Thrilled As Another Webb Instrument Gets the “Go for Science”

The Mid-Infrared instrument (MIRI), the second of the four main scientific instruments on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, has finished post launch preparations and is now ready for the science images.

What Is Coronagraphic Imaging?

The coronagraphic imaging capability of MIRI, which employs two different types of masks to purposefully block starlight from reaching its sensors when attempting to conduct observations of the star’s orbiting planets, was the last mode to be crossed off the list. 

These specialized masks give researchers a previously unattainable opportunity to directly detect exoplanets and investigate dust discs surrounding their home stars.

Together with Webb’s other three instruments, MIRI initially cooled to about 90 Kelvin under the shade of Webb’s tennis court-sized sunshield (minus 298 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 183 degrees Celsius).

Related: NASA Invited Media, Public To View Webb Telescope’s First Images

How Was MIRI Cooled?

Using an electrically powered cryocooler, it had to be cooled to below 7 Kelvin in order to carry out its intended science—just a few degrees above the lowest temperature matter can withstand. 

How Does MIRI Work?

MIRI is able to deliver mid-infrared images and spectra with an unheard-of combination of resolution and sensitivity thanks to these elevated working temperatures.

We are overjoyed that MIRI is now a working, cutting-edge instrument with performances that exceed expectations in every area. In just a few weeks, the international commissioning team has done an outstanding job getting MIRI ready.

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The Celebration Among The Scientists.

As MIRI begins to explore the infrared universe in ways and to depths never accomplished before, we now celebrate all the people, scientists, engineers, managers, national agencies, ESA, and NASA, who worked to make this instrument a reality, said Gillian Wright, MIRI European principal investigator at the UK Astronomy Technology Center, and George Rieke, MIRI science lead at the University of Arizona. 


The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA collaborated to create MIRI, with the ESA’s European Astronomical Institutes providing support and the multi-national collaboration of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory directing the U.S. project.

The Webb team will continue to concentrate on completing the final two modes on its other instruments once post-launch commissioning work on NIRISS and MIRI is complete. The first full-color photos and spectroscopic data from the NASA-ESA-CSA James Webb Space Telescope will be made available on July 12, 2022.

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