JPL to build new instrument for galaxy studies
Posted: October 15, 2001

NASA has chosen the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., to provide the Mid-Infrared Instrument on the Next Generation Space Telescope, which will look back in time more than 90 percent of the history of the universe.

The telescope is part of NASA's Origins Program, which explores the formation of galaxies, stars, planets and life. It will replace the aging Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.

The instrument has enormous potential for discovery. It will provide imaging and spectroscopy, which studies different wavelengths of light. The Mid-Infrared Instrument will 'see' objects in extremely short wavelengths of light measuring 10 one-millionths of a meter -- about the same wavelength as heat emitted by the human body. The instrument also has the potential to see in cooler temperature wavelengths. It could extend to wavelengths much colder than the coldest spot on Earth.

The primary goals of the Next Generation Space Telescope are to understand the formation and evolution of galaxies and the creation of the first heavy elements, such as iron, copper and gold. The Mid-Infrared Instrument will study old stars and examine active galaxies with very bright cores. It will also study starburst galaxies, which have high rates of star formation. Other projects enabled by the new instrument will peer into dust disks around stars, where planets may be forming.

The winning proposal was developed and presented by Dr. Charles Beichman, chief scientist of astronomy and physics at JPL; JPL's Dr. Avinash Karnik, project manager; and JPL's Dr. Gene Serabyn, instrument scientist, with support from various technical experts at JPL. A joint science team for NASA and the European Space Agency will develop functional requirements for the instrument.

The Next Generation Space Telescope is managed for NASA by Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.