Even if you’re in one of the fanciest, most cutting-edge observatories ever built, the universe throws you for a loop. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope experienced a technical glitch in January with its near-infrared imager and slitless spectrograph (Niriss). After some investigation, NASA believes they know the culprit. galactic cosmic rays.
Niriss can be used to detect exoplanets and learn about their atmospheres. On January 15, Niris experienced what NASA described as “flight software timed out due to communication delays within scientific instruments.” This glitch caused the instrument’s scientific observations to pause unexpectedly.
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NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (who designed Niriss for Webb) worked together to investigate this issue. In a statement Tuesday, NASA said“The cause was determined to be likely galactic cosmic rays, a type of high-energy radiation from outside the solar system that can disrupt electrical systems.”
Fixes included “turning it off and then turning it back on” for the Space Telescope version. The Webb team has rebooted the device. After test observations, NASA confirmed that Niris was back in operation as of the end of January.
Galactic cosmic rays are more of a concern than just telescopes and other instruments in space. NASA is studying How to protect astronauts from cosmic radiationThe space agency isn’t too concerned about Ray and Webb moving forward. ‘ said.