Leading up to the release of Webb’s first color images and spectroscopic data on July 12the Webb team is now in the final phase of commissioning of the scientific instruments. The first two instrument modes, NIRCam Imaging and NIRISS Imaging, have been declared Science Ready; check out the “Where’s Webb” page as the team makes their way through the other 15 instrument modes†
After commissioning is complete, the fun – and discoveries – begin: deploying the hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific programs who have been selected for Webb’s freshman year. The area of the sky that Webb can see at any given time is called the area of prestige† Deciding which observations to make on which day is a complicated process designed to optimize observation efficiency and manage the observatory’s resources. We asked Christine Chen, head of the science policy group at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), to tell us about Webb’s scheme.
“Webb will soon transition from commissioning to regular operations when Webb’s time will be devoted to scientific observations,” said Christine Chen, head of the Webb group for science policy, Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland.
“Webb’s first year of 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 (DD-ERS). The GO and DD-ERS programs include scientists from around the world whose programs have been selected in a double anonymous peer review process† The JTO programs are led by scientists who have made significant contributions to the development of the observatory.
“All observations in approved Cycle 1 programs are available for planning at the start of regular operations. However, the DD-ERS observations have been prioritized for the first five months because the DD-ERS programs are designed to help the scientific community understand Webb’s performance for typical scientific observations as quickly as possible.
“Webb’s Long Range Planning Group (LRPG) has established a 12-month observation plan, including all approved observations, with the aim of creating the most efficient plan. Although a Webb observation cycle is defined as a period of 12 months, cycle 1 has more than a year of observations approved. observations that can be moved earlier, when a window is opened. At this point, before the start of Cycle 1, the Observation Plan is not yet completely filled. This allows the schedulers to accommodate the late programs for Targets of Opportunity (ToOs) and Director’s Discretionary (DD). ToOs and DDs typically contain “unplanned” events such as: interstellar cometsgravitational wave sources and supernovas.
“During regular operations, the Short Term Scheduling Group (STSG) will create detailed weekly schedules to be executed by the observatory the following week. These short-term schedules take into account several factors, including observing constraints, data volume limits for the onboard data recorder, building momentum on the observatory’s reaction wheels, etc. At the beginning of each week, the Flight Operations Team will send the Short Term Schedule to Webb. At the end of each week, the LRPG will update the observation plan to reflect the programs actually performed and to establish priorities for the following week. In this way, the LRPG and STSG work synergistically during the observation cycle to maximize the scientific return of the observatory.”
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s largest, most powerful and most complex space science telescope ever built. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond distant worlds around other stars, and explore 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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