MEMS for Viewing Faraway Galaxies
Efforts to peer deep into the early universe are important to understanding its formation, but this requires the gathering of very faint infrared light--which is difficult because nearer, brighter objects overwhelm the signals of darker objects that are farther away. Now engineers at NASA have designed a highly sensitive device with 62,000 micrometer-scale shutters that allow scientists to choose objects they wish to study and block light from other objects.
The new microshutter system is destined for the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to replace the Hubble Space Telescope in 2013. It starts with a piece of specially made silicon that includes a 38-by-38-millimeter area of shutters that sit atop a camera, called the Near Infrared Spectrograph, being built by the European Space Agency (ESA).