Space rocks that hit the Webb telescope caused significant damage, researchers say

Space rocks that hit the Webb telescope caused significant damage, researchers say

An artist's illustration of the Webb telescope in space.

A micrometeoroid that hit Webb Space T.The telescope at the end of May caused permanent damage to the spacecraft, according to a Report from the Space Telescope Science Institute.

The report was published last week by NASA and the European and Canadian space agencies. It described the telescope’s scientific performance up to July 12, 2022, the day the first images of the telescope was publicly released and included an exciting first look of the planet Jupiter seen by Webb.

according to analysis, the impact “exceeded pre-launch expectations of damage to a single micrometeoroid.” The web team is now studying how to predict and reduce future consequences.

Micrometeoroids are pieces of rock flies through space. When you go in orbit Earth, these rocks can now ppees off up to 22,000 miles per hour and is a common danger to astronauts, satellites and spacecraft.

In early Junea NASA release stated that a micrometeoroid affected one of the hexagonal mirrors of the Webb telescope between 23 May and 25 May; the new report estimates that the effect actually occurred between 22 may and 24 may.

“We have always known that Webb would have to endure the space environment, which includes hard ultraviolet light and charged particles from the sun, cosmic rays from exotic sources in the galaxy and occasional strikes from micrometeoroids in our solar system,” said Paul Geithner. a technical deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in June release.

The Mirror of the Web Telescope was carefully adjusted to produce high-resolution images of very faint light sources in the distant universe. The recent report compared ground measurements of the optical quality of the mirror segments with the current quality of the telescope; they found significant errors in the C3 segment.

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

Despite the damage, the team’s initial assessment indicates that Webb “should meet the requirements for optical performance for many years.” Thanks to the telescope’s precise launch, it is expected to be operational for 20 years and will spend its entire operating time on L2, a point in space approx. million miles from the earth.

The cosmic cliffs of the Carina Nebula seen in brown-orange below, and the deep blue of space above.

The big unknown, the team said, is the rate of mirror degradation from micrometeoroids; in other words, how many more harmful than expected space particles will hit the observatory of $ 10 billion. At the time of the June statement on the impact event in May, the team discovered four micrometeoroid attacks that fell within their expectations of such incidents, but the larger incident is cause for concern. If Webb is more exposed to micrometeoroid influences than researchers expectedthe mirrors will be degraded earlier than expected.

It is possible that the team will turn Web optics away from micrometeoroid attacks to protect the mirrors along the line, but for that to happen, the strikes must be anticipated. Webb var severely delayed here on earth, but for an observatory that was launched and put into operation without any problems, it was only a matter of time before space scientists threw Webb a sphere.

More: Take a look at the deepest view so far of our universe: Web’s first full-color image is here

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