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Instrument issue pauses NASA's James Webb Telescope observations

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Scientists have temporarily paused further observations with NASA’s new James Webb telescope after a problem was detected with one of its instruments, the space agency confirmed in a statement on Wednesday. File Photo by Adriana Manrique Gutierrez/NASA
Scientists have temporarily paused further observations with NASA’s new James Webb telescope after a problem was detected with one of its instruments, the space agency confirmed in a statement on Wednesday. File Photo by Adriana Manrique Gutierrez/NASA

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Scientists have temporarily paused further observations with NASA's new James Webb telescope after a problem was detected with one of its instruments, the space agency confirmed.

"The Webb team has paused in scheduling observations using this particular observing mode while they continue to analyze its behavior and are currently developing strategies to resume MRS observations as soon as possible," NASA said in a statement Tuesday.

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The deep space telescope has a problem with its Mid-Infrared Instrument, a camera and spectrograph that sees light in the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, with wavelengths that are longer than our eyes see.

The instrument has four observing modes, and a mechanism that supports one of the modes began malfunctioning in late August. The faulty part is used to select different wavelengths when Webb makes observations in Mid-Infrared Instrument mode.

"Following preliminary health checks and investigations into the issue, an anomaly review board was convened Sept. 6 to assess the best path forward," NASA said.

The news comes after NASA released images the telescope had taken earlier in September which captured the blinding infrared light from Mars. The agency released the images on Monday, which show the eastern hemisphere of Mars in different wavelengths of infrared light. NASA said that the new images will help advance scientific study of the red planet.

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Other than the current issue, the telescope's other three observing modes -- imaging, low-resolution spectroscopy, and coronagraphy -- are operating normally and usable.

A glimpse of deep space: NASA releases 1st images from James Webb Space Telescope

The edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region, NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, this image, released on July 12, 2022, reveals previously obscured areas of star birth. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

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