Scientists say the space rock that hit the Webb telescope caused serious damage

Scientists say the space rock that hit the Webb telescope caused serious damage
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Artist's rendering of the Webb Telescope in space.

A micrometeoroid hit the Webb Space Telescope in late May, causing permanent damage to the spacecraft. Space Telescope Science Institute report.

The report was released last week by NASA and the European and Canadian space agencies. He described the scientific indicators of the telescope until July 12, 2022 the first images of the telescope publicly disclosed and included an exciting first look Jupiter as seen by Webb.

According to the analysis, the impact “exceeded pre-damage expectations for a micrometeoroid”. Webb’s team is now learning how to predict and mitigate future impacts.

Micrometeoroids are pieces of rock that fly through space. While orbiting the earth, these rocks can reach speed up to 22,000 miles per hour and is a regular threat to astronauts, satellites, and spacecraft.

In early June, a NASA statement reported that between May 23 and 25, a micrometeoroid impacted one of the Webb telescope’s hexagonal mirrors; the new report estimates that the impact actually occurred between May 22 and 24.

“We always knew that Webb would have to pass through the space environment, including harsh ultraviolet light and charged particles from the Sun, cosmic rays from exotic sources in the galaxy, and random impacts from micrometeoroids in our solar system,” said Paul Geithner. Deputy technical project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in June release.

They were the mirrors of the Webb telescope carefully tailored to create high-resolution images of very faint light sources in the distant universe. In a recent report, ground measurements of the optical quality of the mirror segments were compared with the telescope’s current quality; They found a significant error in the C3 segment.

Because the C3 segment is only one of the 18 hexagonal mirrors that make up the telescope’s main mirror, micrometeoroid damage is relatively small at the telescope’s full level, the report said.

Despite the damage, the team’s preliminary assessment suggests that Webb “should meet optical performance requirements for many years to come.” Thanks to its precise launch, the telescope is expected to operate for 20 years and will spend its entire operation at the L2 point in space, about a million miles from Earth.

The space rocks of the Carina Nebula appear below in brownish orange and above in the deep blue of space.

A big unknown, the team reports, is the rate of mirror degradation from micrometeoroids; in other words, how much more harmful space particles will hit the $10 billion observatory than expected. During the June statement about the May impact event, the team found four micrometeoroid impacts that match their expectations for such events, but a larger event is a concern. If Webb is more susceptible to micrometeoroid impacts than scientists expect, its mirrors will deteriorate sooner than expected.

Maybe there will be a team Turn Webb’s optics to protect their mirrors from micrometeoroid impacts, but for this to happen, impacts must be expected. It was Webb seriously delayed here on Earth, but it was only a matter of time before space threw the Webb scientists a curveball for an observatory that was up and running without a hitch.

Read more: See the deepest view of our universe: Webb’s first full-color image here

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