Dunsink Lane, Dublin 15, D15 XR2R

 JWST Image Release Event at DIAS Dunsink Observatory

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched on December 25th, 2021, from French Guiana. The JWST contains four instruments designed to conduct infrared astronomy. The four instruments are the Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), the Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRSpec), the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) and the Fine Guidance Sensor and Near Infrared Imager and Slit less Spectrograph (FGS/NIRISS).

The original launch was planned for 2007, with a total budget of 0.5 billion USD. 14 years later, the JWST cost 9.7 billion USD in total. The intricate design included an origami style folding process to enable the telescope to be folded small enough to fit inside the rocket. After launch, a series of intricate manoeuvres were executed to unfold the telescope in space as it travelled to its orbit location. 

The JWST orbits the sun at the L2 Lagrange point, approximately 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. JWST reached this orbit distance on January 24th, 2022, just under one month after its launch. Since then, the mirrors have undergone a series of alignment procedures, with the final alignment being completed on March 11th, 2022. The alignment image below was released to show the bright star which was used to focus the instrument during alignment.


Here at DIAS, our star formation group have been involved in the design and use of the MIRI instrument on board JWST. Prof. Tom Ray is co-Principal Investigator for MIRI. DIAS has contributed to the design and fabrication of this instrument by producing special filters that are used to break up infrared light into its various components. In recent years DIAS has played a major role in understanding the instrument’s performance, and in providing specialised software, so as to produce science-ready data. Dr. Patrick Kavanagh from DIAS, who is a member of the international MIRI team, has recently returned from the Webb Mission Operations Centre in Baltimore, where he spent several weeks working with the international team commissioning the instrument.

On July 12th, the first full-colour images from JWST were released to the public. We held a special event at Dunsink Observatory for the livestream of the release of these images. 

We were joined by Prof Tom Ray and Dr Patrick Kavanagh as well as other industry experts, staff, students and the general public.

After having some time to explore the observatory and grounds, the crowd gathered in our Meridian room to watch the official livestream and release of images. Following the livestream. Prof Tom Ray, Dr Patrick Kavanagh and industry experts were on hand to answer questions from attendees.

One of the images released of the Southern Ring Nebula was made using the MIRI instrument our team is involved in. This MIRI image has provided a much greater amount of detail in the nebula than previously seen using the Hubble Space Telescope and even shows distant galaxies in the background.


To view the rest of the images released and learn more about them you can visit the dedicated ESA Webb page here: