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Canada's role in Webb

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the most important space observatory of the next decade, serving astronomers from all over the world. It is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

The CSA has contributed two important elements, built by Honeywell, to the Webb Telescope:

In exchange, Canada receives a guaranteed share of Webb's observation time, making Canadian scientists some of the first to study data collected by the most advanced space telescope ever built.

Canada's contribution

Canada's Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) and the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. (Credit: NASA)

Fine Guidance Sensor: Keeping Webb on target

The Canadian-made FGS allows Webb to:

The FGS will play an important role in all scientific observations made by Webb and will ensure the collection of clear and detailed pictures of celestial bodies in the universe.

Infographic on the Fine Guidance Sensor sophisticated guidance sensor

Canada's stellar navigator on the James Webb Space Telescope (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph

The Canadian NIRISS instrument enables scientists to determine the composition of exoplanets' atmospheres, observe distant galaxies, and examine objects that are very close together.

Using a camera sensitive to infrared wavelengths, NIRISS will capture the infrared light emitted by objects and gather information about the spectra of distant planets.

A spectrum shows exactly how bright an object is at many different wavelengths, or colours. This gives detailed information on the characteristics of the observed object.

With the Webb Telescope, scientists will be able to determine if distant planets could be habitable based on whether or not their spectra show lines associated with certain molecules like water, carbon dioxide, methane and oxygen in their atmospheres.

The Canadian teams

Science team

The CSA is supporting the science team's operations. The science team is responsible for selecting scientific targets and goals that involve the use of the Canadian instrument NIRISS during guaranteed time observations made during Webb's lifetime.

Leads of the Canadian FGS/NIRISS team, Dr. René Doyon (Université de Montréal), Dr. Begoña Vila (NASA), Dr. Chris Willott (NRC-Herzberg) and Dr. Neil Rowlands (Honeywell), discuss testing of the Webb Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. (Credit: Julia Zhou/Honeywell)

The Canadian Webb science team is led by:

Researchers from a number of universities and institutes are involved in the Canadian science team:

Instrument team

The FGS/NIRISS instrument team was responsible for designing and developing the Canadian contribution to Webb.

The integrated FGS/NIRISS unit was built and tested by Honeywell with the help of scientists and engineers from the CSA, the Université de Montréal, NASA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

The CSA is funding Canada's entire contribution to the space telescope, including the two Canadian hardware elements and the continued participation of instrument scientists.

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