The observatory's Near Infrared Spectrograph
allows it to scan the spectra of light from more than 100 objects at once, which can reveal details about their physical properties, including temperature, mass, and chemical composition. However, the instrument needs a way to block out the light of near, bright objects to properly analyze its faint, distant, ancient targets. Enter the microshutters
--tiny cells just 100 by 200 microns large, or one to two times the width of a human hair, respectively. These shutters can be individually opened and closed when a magnetic field is applied, in order to view or block a portion of the sky. These cells are arranged in a waffle-like grid about the size of a postage stamp that holds more than 62,000 microshutters. The instrument will contain four of these grids altogether.