A problem with one of the instruments on Nasa’s $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope has caused the space agency to pause one of its means of making observations.
Nasa announced on Wednesday that a mechanism on the observatory’s mid-infrared instrument, or MIRI, was experiencing technical issues.
Scientists use four modes on this mechanism to see further into space, but one that supports medium-resolution spectroscopy, or MRS, is facing issues.
The space agency said that there was increased friction in the mode during set-up for a science observation.
“Following preliminary health checks and investigations into the issue, an anomaly review board was convened on September 6 to assess the best path forward,” it said.
“The Webb team has paused in scheduling observations using this particular observing mode while they continue to analyse its behaviour and are currently developing strategies to resume MRS observations as soon as possible.”
The space agency said that the telescope was in “good health” and that MIRI’s other three observing modes — imaging, low-resolution spectroscopy and coronagraphy — were operating normally.
Observations by the MRS allows scientists to select between short, medium and longer wavelengths.
This is a crucial element in the telescope, which has enabled scientists to make discoveries and deliver stunning pictures of the universe.
The world’s most powerful observatory was launched into space on Christmas Day, 2021, to look back at the galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang, almost 13.8 billion years ago.
It was developed along with the European and Canadian space agencies.