Royal Astronomical Society acknowledges MIRI Team's contribution to James Webb Space Telescope
12 Jan 2024
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Team received Group Achievement Award in honour of their work on JWST

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The Royal Astronomical Society's (RAS) announced today that the prestigious Group Achievement Award has been awarded to the international Mid InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) team in honour of their work on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

The award recognises the team's impressive achievement in bringing such a lengthy and complex international project to successful fruition, and the scientific results emerging from MIRI that their work has enabled.

New insights

Developed over two decades, JWST is the most powerful telescope ever launched into space. The spectacular images and scientific data coming from MIRI are redefining our understanding of the cosmos through new insights into the atmospheres of planets beyond our Solar System and new data on star and galaxy formation.

​MIRI is one of four scientific instruments on board JWST and is the only instrument operating at mid-infrared wavelengths (5-28microns). By adding the mid-infrared capability in imaging, spectroscopy and coronagraphs, MIRI greatly expands the range of science that the observatory can do.  

International collaboration

​MIRI was developed by an international team of people from institutes across ten European countries and the US. Its long wavelengths brought unique technical challenges. Professor Gillian Wright from the Science and Technology Facilities Council's (STFC) UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) and Professor George Rieke from the University of Arizona worked together closely to lead the team endeavour. 

Gillian Wright, Director at UK ATC and the European Principal Investigator on MIRI, said: “It is wonderful for everyone who worked on MIRI to see that their work is recognized by the RAS. A big thank-you to all those involved with this ground-breaking project for your hard work and dedication over many years. The MIRI team, and those who helped us along the way, were convinced that MIRI would bring important new insights over a broad range of science, and it is exciting to see this come to fruition. MIRI was only possible through collaboration of people across Europe and the USA working together with a shared scientific goal."​ 

Professor Mark Thomson, STFC Executive Chair and Space Sector Champion for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the UK's national research and innovation funding body, said: “Congratulations to the MIRI team on winning this well-deserved award. The amazing scientific results coming from MIRI are testament to the quality of their work and skill in such a specialised area. The UK and European contribution, led by Gillian Wright at UK ATC, have played a key role in MIRI's success." 

UK leadership with global contributions 

MIRI is a truly collaborative project comprising organisations, universities, and research institutes across the globe. The lead institutes in each country are highlighted in the map.

The work drew on the scientific and technical expertise of people from over 40 organisations.

UK Institutes that played a major role in the design, build and commissioning of MIRI include:​ 

  • UK ATC (Leadership, Instrument Science, overall optical design, spectrometer pre-optics and calibration sources)
  • RAL Space (Thermal engineering and instrument assembly integration and testing)
  • Airbus Defence & Space UK (Consortium project management, Product Assurance co-ordination and System Engineering lead)
  • University of Leicester (Mechanical Engineering and Ground Support Equipment)
  • University of Cardiff (Calibration unit elements) 

With funding for the UK contribution provided by UK Space Agency and STFC. 

Many of the exciting science highlights from the first two years of MIRI operation can be found on the European Space Agency website.

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