The NIRSpec instrument is the workhorse near-infrared spectrograph on board the James Webb Space Telescope and is provided by ESA.

NIRSpec will allow scientists to study objects embedded in shrouds of gas and dust, to find out more about how galaxies formed and evolved, and to characterise the atmospheres of exoplanet to determine if water is present.

The primary goal of NIRSpec is to enable large spectroscopic surveys of astronomical objects like stars or distant galaxies. This is made possible by its powerful multi-object spectroscopy mode, which will make use of use of roughly a quarter of a million tiny configurable shutters, which are each comparable in size to the width of a human hair, to conduct simultaneous spectroscopic observations of multiple sources in a single exposure. In this mode, Webb will be able to obtain spectra of up to 200 targets simultaneously, making for very efficient use of Webb’s valuable observing time.

NIRSpec will also offer integral-field and fixed-slit spectroscopy modes that will facilitate detailed studies of individual astronomical objects.

Video about NIRSpec’s multi-object spectograph

Video about the NIRSpec integral field units technology

NIRSpec fact sheet

More about Webb’s science instruments

Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

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