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The Scientific Instruments Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about spectroscopy and chromatography, microscopy and imaging, industrial applications, and metrology and calibration. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

The Precision (and Promise) of the James Webb Telescope

Posted May 24, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is scheduled for launch in October 2018, and when it becomes operational, it is expected to advance human understanding of the universe, just as the Hubble Space Telescope did 25 years ago. Designed to observe the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang, the JWST will peer farther than any telescope before it, up to 13.5 billion light-years away. The telescope's onboard spectroscopic equipment will analyze the chemical composition, temperature, and other characteristics of the galaxies, stars, and planets it observes. These instruments will be so sensitive that the JWST may be able to detect the signatures of life in a distant planetary atmosphere.


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Here Comes the Sun

Posted April 06, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

The sun has been the talk of the solar system lately, showcased in a new video released by NASA and new research that reveals the source of its magnetic field. The video features five years' worth of stunning images from the successful Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), launched in 2010. The SDO is equipped with a variety of scientific instruments capable of imaging the extreme ultraviolet radiation from the sun's chromosphere and corona. In addition, the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, using the telescopes and spectrometer on the HINODE observatory, revealed how the small supergranules at the boundaries of the sun's magnetic web contribute to the flow of the entire magnetic field.


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LIGO Goes Where No One Has Gone Before

Posted January 17, 2015 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Is the creation of a black hole a rare event? What cataclysmic events shaped the solar system we know and love? Scientists at two observatories in the U.S. are collaborating to answer these and many other questions about the origins of the universe. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories (LIGO), are situated in Livingston, LA and Richland, WA, and feature sophisticated sensor systems designed to detect gravitational waves - the perturbations propagating through the fabric of space-time caused by massive supernovae explosions or the collision of black holes. An advanced system with detectors 10x as sensitive as the existing equipment is scheduled to go online in 2015.


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Flawed Philae Landing Still a Rousing Success

Posted December 19, 2014 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

It only lasted for a couple of days, instead of the hoped-for six weeks, but the Philae lander from the Rosetta spacecraft still provided ground-breaking insights into comet science. The landing experienced several glitches: the lander bounced twice and settled in a less than optimal spot and the harpoons designed to secure the lander in place never fired. Shaded from solar power, Philae only transmitted data for 60 hours before the batteries ran out. However, the data it sent included measurements of the comet's magnetic field and indications of the detection of organic molecules.


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3 comments; last comment on 12/26/2014
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Webb Telescope's "Heart" Unscathed

Posted November 24, 2014 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

The sensitive instruments housed in the James Webb Telescope's Integrated Science Instrument Module, or ISIM, just survived 116 days in the frigid cold, ensuring that the equipment will continue to work when it arrives at its destination one million miles from Earth. The ISIM is considered the heart of the telescope, containing all of the imaging instrumentation: a camera and spectrograph, both operating in the infrared; a mid-infrared instrument; and a fine guidance sensor coupled with a near-infrared imager and slitless spectrograph. The extreme temperature test, conducted in a vacuum chamber at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, produced more stress on the ISIM due to shrinkage than will the vibration of a violent lift-off.


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First-of-its-Kind Sensor for Portable Medical and Scientific Instruments

Posted October 17, 2014 12:00 AM by IHS Engineering360 eNewsletter

Semiconductors keep getting smaller and more powerful, giving us smartphones and tablets that are portable workhorses. Now, these same technologies allow engineers to make small, compact components that can take the place of bulky and expensive ones in scientific and medical equipment, essentially allowing for mobile laboratories. A case in point is the new bio-optical sensor from Anitoa Systems, capable of detecting 3x10-6 lux narrow-band light, making it a logical substitution for the photo multiplier tubes and charge-coupled devices that are currently used in laboratory-bound diagnostic instruments.


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