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NIRISS, Canada's cosmic time machine on the James Webb Space Telescope - Infographic


The James Webb Space Telescope, often referred to as Hubble's successor, promises to push the limits of astronomy even more and study some of the very first galaxies ever created, only 200 million years after the event that began the entire universe. The CSA is contributing the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS), a scientific instrument that will help study many astronomical objects, from exoplanets to distant galaxies.  (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

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The Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) is designed to help astronomers observe the distant universe, revealing early galaxies as they appeared shortly after the Big Bang.

How does NIRISS see back in time?

As the universe expands, the blue light of its oldest objects must travel great distances to reach us. This light is stretched and becomes redder as it moves through space. NIRISS is perfectly suited to gather this near-infrared light.

What will NIRISS reveal about early galaxies?

  • Age and distance: Astronomers estimate the earliest galaxies formed about 200-300 million years after the beginning of the universe.
  • Size and shape: Galaxies come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and even colours. The largest elliptical galaxies can contain trillions of stars.
  • Stage of evolution: Star formation and collisions or other cosmic mishaps can impact how galaxies evolve.

What else will NIRISS help study?

The sensitive instrument will also collect the hidden heat signatures of distant celestial objects:

  • solar systems
  • cool stars
  • brown dwarfs

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