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ESA to set tiny hair-like Webb Telescope microshutters
Date:6/29/2010

Tiny little shutters as small as the width of a human hair are a key component in the James Webb Space Telescope's ability to see huge distances in the cosmos, and they have now arrived at the European Space Agency. Those little "shutters" are actually called "microshutters" and they are tiny doorways that focus the attention of the infrared camera on specific targets to the exclusion of others. They will focus in on objects like very distant stars and galaxies.

The microshutters were recently shipped from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. to the European Space Agency (ESA) for installation into the near-infrared spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument. This is a big step, because the microshutters are components that will fly on the actual telescope.

Harvey Moseley, a Senior Astrophysicist at NASA Goddard, who led the microshutter team, said "This delivery is the culmination of nearly a decade of development, in which the device grew from an initial idea to a revolutionary system for vastly increasing the power of Webb telescope as it probes the distant universe. To have completed the development of this device in a space flight program speaks highly of the great team of engineers and technicians who brought this new technology to completion."

The microshutters are assembled as an "array" or collection. An array is a group of tiny microshutters that looks like a little square in a waffle-like grid. Each array or grid contains over 62,000 shutters. Individually, each microshutter measures 100 by 200 microns, or about the width of a human hair. The telescope will contain four of these waffle-looking grids all put together. They also have to work at the incredibly cold temperature of minus 388 degrees Fahrenheit (-233 degrees Celsius).

The microshutters will enable scientists to block unwanted light from objects closer to the camera in space, like light from stars in our Galaxy, letting the light from faraway
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Contact: Rob Gutro
Robert.J.Gutro@nasa.gov
443-858-1779
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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ESA to set tiny hair-like Webb Telescope microshutters
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