Webb @ STScI Update

Klaus Pontoppidan (pontoppi[at]stsci.edu), Bonnie Meinke (meinke[at]stsci.edu) and Nikole Lewis (nlewis[at]stsci.edu)


Staff at the Institute continues work toward supporting science operations with the James Webb Space Telescope. The Science and Operations Center (S&OC) software package version 2.0 was delivered to NASA, and new versions of the suite of user tools are available for proposal planning. The launch delay of Webb, announced by NASA on March 27, led to a delay of the GO cycle 1 proposal deadline to no earlier than February 1, 2019.

Launch delay and the Cycle 1 proposal deadline

Based on recommendations made by the JWST Standing Review Board, NASA is re-scheduling Webb's launch window for 2020. Given those circumstances, the Institute will delay the Cycle 1 GO/AR proposal deadline until no earlier than February 1, 2019. A revised proposal schedule will be developed in consultation with the JWST Users Committee, the JWST Project, and representatives from the European and Canadian Space Agencies. Proposals already submitted in response to the Cycle 1 Call will not be carried over and will need to be resubmitted.

Science and Operations Center status

The Institute is responsible for developing the JWST Science & Operations Center (S&OC), which includes the Flight Operations Subsystem (FOS), the Wavefront Sensing and Control Subsystem (WSS), the Project Reference Database Subsystem (PRDS), the Proposal Planning Subsystem (PPS) and the Data Management Subsystem (DMS). Version 2.0 of the S&OC was verified and delivered to NASA in October 2017. Version 2.0 verified more than 100 requirements and is on-track for a timely delivery of the flight build. S&OC version 2.0.1 verified more than 30 additional requirements at the end of March 2018.

User tools

The user tool suite has been updated to both include new tools as well as enhanced functionality of existing tools. This includes releases up to version 25.4.4 of the Astronomer's Proposal Tool (APT) and version 1.2.2 of the Exposure Time Calculator (ETC). The APT updates are in particular useful for observers of non-siderial (solar system) objects and users of Aladin for visualizing proposals. The ETC updates include significant enhancements for coronagraphic modes, as well as improved treatment of dithered observations. The background radiance that Webb is subjected to, as used by the ETC, can be explored using the JWST Backgrounds Tool (JBT).

New releases include the Space Telescope Image Product Simulator (STIPS), which enables full-field simulations of the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) imaging modes. Observers of solar system objects can now also calculate visibilities for moving objects using the Moving Target Visibility Tool (MTVT). Similarly, users of the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) multi-object spectroscopy mode can visualize their observations with the NIRSpec Observation Visualization Tool (NOVT).      

NIRSpec Observation Visualization Tool
The NIRSpec Observation Visualization Tool.

Exploring the GTO and ERS programs 

The Institute received 106 proposals for the Director's Discretionary Early Release Science Program (DD-ERS). Following the recommendations of the Time Allocation Committee and a technical review, 13 programs were selected by the STScI Director. The programs span a wide range of science areas and observing modes, and include investigators from 18 countries. Detailed information about the Early Release Science Programs can be found on the Webb science website. For instance, for any accepted science programs, it is possible to download the detailed APT files using the Program Information Tool to see exactly what is planned. Some GTO teams have waived their Exclusive Access Period, such that their data become public immediately after they are obtained. This also means that archival proposals for Cycle 1 can be based on these programs. For those concerned about avoiding duplications in their proposals, it is now possible to search MAST for potentially duplicated targets (GTO and ERS for Cycle 1 proposals).

The DD-ERS programs will be presented and discussed at the 232nd summer AAS in Denver, CO during four special sessions on "Distant Galaxies and Cosmic Dawn," "Nearby and Resolved Galaxies," "Astrochemistry and the ISM," and "Planets."

Webb outreach at South by Southwest

Several Institute scientists were at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, TX to give talks about Webb and its science possibilities. Nikole Lewis, Bonnie Meinke, Joel Green, and Jason Kalirai spoke on two separate panels: "All These Worlds are Yours" and "What Will the Webb Telescope Discover First?"—the first about how we use space telescopes to characterize other worlds, and the second about the bold science goals of Webb in Cycle 1. Each panel received ~100 in-person attendees. Joel Green and Jason Kalirai also joined a panel discussion on Webb hosted by "Huge" and "Quartz Media."

Nikole Lewis (STScI), Elisa Quintana (NASA GSFC), Sarah Hörst (JHU) and Bonnie Meinke (STScI) at the "All These Worlds Are Yours" SXSW panel.