In anticipation of the publication of the first color images and spectroscopic data from Webb on July 12the Webb team is now in the final phase of commissioning of scientific instruments. The first two instrument modes, NIRCam imaging and NIRISS imaging, have been declared science-ready; watch the “Where’s Webb” page as the team progresses through the 15 other instrument modes.
Once commissioning is complete, the fun – and the discoveries – will begin: implementing hundreds of peer reviews scientific programs who were selected for Webb’s freshman year. The area of sky that Webb can see at all times is called the area of consideration. Deciding which observations to make on which day is a complicated process designed to optimize observing efficiency and manage observatory resources. We asked Christine Chen, head of the science policy group at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), to tell us how Webb’s timeline is unfolding.
“Webb will soon transition from commissioning to regular operations when Webb’s time is devoted to science observations,” said Christine Chen, Webb science policy group leader, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland.
“The first year of Webb observations (Cycle 1) has already been selected. Three types of science programs are planned: General Observer (GO), Guaranteed Time Observer (GTO), and Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science Program (DD-ERS). The GO and DD-ERS programs bring together scientists from all over the world whose programs have been selected in a dual anonymous peer review process. GTO programs are led by scientists who have made essential contributions to the development of the observatory.
“All observations from approved Cycle 1 programs are available for planning at the start of regular operations. However, DD-ERS observations were given priority during the first five months because DD-ERS programs are designed to help the scientific community understand Webb’s performance for typical scientific observations as soon as possible.
“Webb’s Long Range Planning Group (LRPG) created a 12+ month sighting plan, including all approved sightings, with the goal of creating the most effective plan. Although a Webb observation cycle is defined as a 12-month period, more than one year of observations has been approved for cycle 1. This oversubscription will allow for a smooth transition between cycles and provide a repository of information ready to fly. observations that can be moved earlier, if a window opens. At present, before the start of Cycle 1, the Observation Plan is not yet completely filled. This allows planners to accommodate last-minute Targets of Opportunity (ToOs) and Director’s Discretionary (DD) programs. ToOs and DDs typically include “unscheduled for” events such as interstellar cometsgravitational wave sources and supernovae.
“During regular operations, the Short Term Planning Group (STSG) will create detailed weekly schedules to be executed by the Observatory over the following week. observation, data volume limits for the on-board data logger, momentum buildup on the observatory’s reaction wheels, etc. Schedule of terms to Webb. At the end of each week, the LRPG update the observation plan to reflect the actual programs that have been executed and identify priorities for the following week.In this way, the LRPG and the STSG work in synergy throughout the observation cycle to maximize the observatory’s scientific return.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s largest, most powerful and most complex space science telescope ever built. Webb will solve the mysteries of our solar system, look beyond distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
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