The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is frequently referred to as the follow-on mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The “Webb”, as it is often called, will be the biggest space telescope ever built and it will lead to astounding scientific breakthroughs. The observatory is currently scheduled for launch in 2020 from Kourou, French Guyana by an ESA provided Ariane 5 rocket. The Observatory houses four scientific instruments. One of them is NIRSpec, the multi-object Near Infrared Spectrograph, built for ESA by Airbus Defence and Space in Germany. After the JWST Optical telescope Element (OTE) integration and testing was completed in early 2016, the Integrated Science Instruments Module (ISIM) was integrated to the OTE in May 2016. The complete system of OTE and ISIM, now called OTIS, then successfully went through an acoustic and vibration test campaign at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). After this, the OTIS system was shipped to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, TX, where a final 100+ days lasting cryogenic vacuum test was conducted inside the famous Thermal Chamber A. This paper presents NIRSpec’s hardware status and some preliminary test results from the OTIS test campaign.
JWST/NIRSpec will include the first space-borne multi-object spectrograph, comprising a micro-shutter array (MSA) of a quarter of a million closable apertures that can be individually addressed to select up to a couple of hundred objects within a ~3.2x3.4 arcmin field of view. Although more than ~85% of the unvignetted shutters are fully operational, the high degree of mechanical movement combined with complex circuitry on a small scale, inevitably leads to some non-operable shutters. In this paper we present an overview of the operability assessment concept for the MSA, employed during both ground tests and in flight. We describe the procedures used to detect, mitigate against, and even repair the non-operable shutters, and show the effect upon the multiplexing capability and output data from NIRSpec. We also present the operability trending results from ground tests, and discuss the probable impact on nominal operations after launch.
The Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) is one of the four science instruments onboard the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The instrument features a focal plane array (FPA) consisting of two 2048 × 2048 HAWAII-2RG sensor chip assemblies (SCAs) with a cutoff wavelength of approximately 5.3 μm. The detectors are read out via a pair of SIDECAR ASICs. To ensure a stable operating environment and best performance, the FPA is temperature controlled via a dedicated control loop by the NIRSpec focal plane electronics. The targeted in-orbit operating temperature of the NIRSpec FPA is close to 42.8 K. Due to the low background levels that the JWST will provide, most NIRSpec observations of very faint targets will be detector noise limited. Therefore, stringent noise requirements on the detector system were put in place. In order to meet these requirements, NIRSpec offers a dedicated readout mode for its detectors that is called improved reference sampling and subtraction (IRS2 ). In this paper we present the noise performance of the NIRSpec detectors as a function of readout mode and exposure parameters. We find that the NIRSpec detector system meets its stringent noise requirement of 6 electrons total noise in a ∼ 1000 second exposure. We also highlight the types and effects of different kinds of bad pixels that are present in the detectors in small numbers.
Detection of faint companions near bright stars requires the usage of high dynamic range instrumentation. The four quadrant phase mask is a quite efficient nulling device for the light of on-axis stars as shown by simulations. We conducted a test of the true performance of this concept starting with the manufacturing of the optical element, continuing with the installation in the telescope and the usage of the Adaptive Optics system. A four quadrant phase mask was installed in the 3.5m telescope on Calar Alto and several tests with both an artificial source and natural stars were conducted. Tests in order to detect faint companions around HD 140913, TRN 1 and HD 161797 were successful for the last target and also, although almost serendipitously, in the case of HD144004. The main limitations found for the phase mask cancelling effect at relatively low Strehl ratios (16%-63%) were the residual tip-tilt of our system and the control of placement of the mask in the optical train.
We are currently investigating the possibilities for a high-contrast, adaptive optics assisted instrument to be placed as a 2nd-generation instrument on ESO's VLT. This instrument will consist of an 'extreme-ao' system capable of producing very high Strehl ratios, a contrast-enhancing device and two differential imaging detection systems. It will be designed to collect photons directly coming from the surface of substellar companions - ideally down to planetary masses - to bright, nearby stars and disentangle them from the stellar photons. We will present our current design study for such an instrument and
discuss the various ways to tell stellar from companion photons. These ways include the use of polarimetric and/or spectroscopic
information as well as making use of knowledge about photon statistics. Results of our latest simulations regarding the instrument will be presented and the expected performance discussed.
Derived from the simulated performance we will also give details
about the expected science impact of the planet finder. This will
comprise the chances of finding different types of exo-planets -
notably the dilemma of going for hot planets marginally separated
from their parent stars or cold, far-away plamnets delivering very
little radiation, the scientific return of such detections and
follow-up examinations, as well as other topics like star-formation,
debris disks, and planetary nebulae where a high-resolution,
high-contrast system will trigger new break-throughs.
In the pyramid wavefront sensor some dynamic range is accomplished by modulating the optical signal across the four faces of the pyramid before the dissection and detection of the light. Although this can be realized in different ways, including systems which do not require any moving part, we question and discuss the real needs for such a modulation. In fact, when the closed-loop performance is not perfect, some residual errors on the wavefront sensor are expected and one should take care to allow for enough dynamic range to get a linear response within such a residual range. However, the non-corrected aberrations themselves can be considered as a form of modulation. Higher order uncompensated residuals are equivalent to a modulation for the lower compensated modes.
We present a preliminary study showing that this sort of 'natural' modulation could be, at least under certain conditions, enough to reach comparable results with respect to dynamical modulation during correction, hence rising the question of the need of a modulation in the realization of the pyramid wavefront sensor.
The objective of the PYRAMIR project is to complement the Calar Alto Adaptive Optics System - ALFA - with a new pyramid wavefront sensor working in the near IR, replacing the previous tip-tilt tracker arm. Here we describe the Science as well as the Technical motivation for such a system. The optical design will be presented, discussing the particular requirements posed by sensing the wavefronts in the infrared like a cooling system for the opto-mechanical components, etc. We will also talk about the components, like the IR detector we plan to use - PICNIC, as one option, the sucessor of NICMOS3 from Rockwell, together with the AO-Multiplexer. It is described how we expect to integrate the system into the optical, machanical, electronical and control architecture of ALFA.