ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Observatory, the follow-on mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, will yield astonishing breakthroughs in infrared space science. One of the four instruments on that mission, the NIRSpec instrument, is being developed by the European Space Agency with EADS Astrium Germany GmbH as the prime contractor. This multi-object spectrograph is capable of measuring the near infrared spectrum of at least 100 objects simultaneously at various spectral resolutions in the 0.6 micron to 5.0 micron wavelength range. A physical optical model, based on Fourier Optics, was developed in order to simulate some of the key optical performances of NIRSpec. Realistic WFE maps were established for both the JWST optical telescope as well as for the various NIRSpec optical stages. The model simulates the optical performance of NIRSpec at the key optical pupil and image planes. Using this core optical simulation module, the model was expanded to a full instrument performance simulator that can be used to simulate the response of NIRSpec to any given optical input. The program will be of great use during the planning and evaluation of performance testing and calibration measurements.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) mission is a collaborative project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). JWST is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and although its design and science objectives are quite different, JWST is expected to yield equivalently astonishing breakthroughs in infrared space science. Due to be launched in 2013 from the French Guiana, the JWST observatory will be placed in an orbit around the anti- Sun Earth-Sun Lagrangian point, L2, by an Ariane 5 launcher, provided by ESA. The payload on board the JWST observatory consists of four main scientific instruments: a near-infrared camera (NIRCam), a combined mid-infrared camera/spectrograph (MIRI), a near-infrared tunable filter (TFI) and a nearinfrared spectrograph (NIRSpec). The instrument suite is completed by a Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS). Besides the provision of the Ariane 5 launcher, ESA, with EADS Astrium GmbH (D) as Prime Contractor, is fully responsible for the funding and the furnishing of NIRSpec and, at the same time, for approximately half of MIRI costs through special contributions from the ESA member states. NIRSpec is a multi-object, spectrograph capable of measuring the spectra of about 100 objects simultaneously at low (R=100), medium (R=1000), and high (R=2700) resolutions over the wavelength range between 0.6 micron and 5.0 micron. In this article we provide a general overview of its main design features and performances.
High redshift galaxies selected on the basis of their strong Lyman-alpha emission tend to be young ages and small physical sizes. We show this by analyzing the spectral energy distribution (SED) of 9 Lyman-alpha emitting (LAE) galaxies at 4.0 < z < 5.7 in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). Rest-frame UV to optical 700A < lambda < 7500A luminosities, or upper limits, are used to constrain old stellar populations. We derive best fit, as well as maximally massive and maximally old, properties of all 9 objects. We show that these faint and distant objects are all very young, being most likely only a few millions years old, and not massive, the mass in stars being ~106-108 MSun. Deep Spitzer Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) observations of these objects, even in cases where objects were not detected, were crucial in constraining the masses of these objects. The space density of these objects, ~1.25x10-4 Mpc-3 is comparable to previously reported space density of LAEs at moderate to high redshifts. These Lyman-alpha galaxies show modest star formation rates of ~8 MSun yr-1, which is nevertheless strong enough to have allowed these galaxies to assemble their stellar mass in less than a few x106 years. These sources appear to have small physical sizes, usually smaller than 1 Kpc, and are also rather concentrated. They are likely to be some of the least massive and youngest high redshift galaxies observed to date.
The article is based loosely on a talk given by Professor Giovanni Bignami to the Association Pro-ISSI.