A GROUNDBREAKING piece of Scottish technology contributing to a Nasa telescope has begun taking images for the first time.

The Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) is Scotland’s main contribution to the James Webb Space telescope, with Nasa confirming that the MIRI is now receiving focused light from the telescope and taking pictures.

Key aspects of the space-age tech were developed in Scotland with the European contribution to the telescope being led by Hamilton-born scientist Professor Gillian Wright.

Wright led the European efforts in her role as European principal investigator and as director at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, which is based at the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.

She said: “Another fantastic moment in MIRI’s amazing journey. The team is delighted that the coolest instrument on Webb is now also aligned to Webb’s mirrors and functioning. 

“Using MIRI, we will be able to observe the infrared universe in a way that has never been possible before. There are still several months of detailed testing and calibration to go before we see the first science from MIRI, but this is tremendous news and a real achievement for the entire MIRI team.”

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MIRI was the last instrument to become functional on Webb as it operates at lower temperatures than the other instruments, so had to be carefully cooled to 7 kelvin (-266 Celsius).

After confirming that the instrument systems were functional at this extremely cold temperature the MIRI cover was opened and the first data obtained.

The painstaking and long telescope alignment process was supported by scientists and engineers from Science and Technology Facilities Council’s UK ATC and RAL Space, along with a team of international MIRI partners.

David Lee, the MIRI lead optical engineer at the UK ATC in Edinburgh, said: “I was up until 1am with colleagues in France, talking to the Webb alignment team in the US, to support the analysis of MIRI’s alignment to the telescope. After working on MIRI for so many years it was great to finally reach this stage in the project and see that the images are well focused.”