Thursday, July 7

James Webb Space Telescope hit by micrometeorite | Digital Trends Spanish

The James Webb Space Telescope NASA recently suffered a micrometeorite attack on one of its 18 primary mirror segments, though engineers working on the mission insist the damage has been minimal.

The recently launched Webb Telescope is the most powerful space observatory ever deployed and will soon begin peering into deep space in a bid to learn more about the origins of the universe. The $10 billion, multi-year mission is the result of a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, and has been decades in the making.


While it’s normal for spacecraft to experience micrometeorite impacts, NASA noted that this particular speck of high-speed space dust, which hit the telescope between May 23 and 25, was larger than it had predicted when modeling. such events prior to mission launch in December 2021.

Analysis of the damage to the mirror segment is ongoing, but NASA said early indications are that the telescope continues to perform “at a level that exceeds all mission requirements despite a marginally detectable effect on the data.”

Commenting on the attack, Paul Geithner, deputy technical project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said: “We always knew that Webb would have to withstand the space environment, which includes harsh ultraviolet light and charged particles from the sun, cosmic rays from exotic sources in the galaxy, and occasional micrometeor strikes within our solar system. We designed and built Webb with performance margin (optical, thermal, electrical, mechanical) to ensure that he can carry out his ambitious scientific mission even after many years in space.”

The Erg Chech 002 meteorite is the oldest on Earth and comes from a protoplanet

The telescope, which is now at its point of observation a million miles from Earth, has been able to adjust the affected segment in a way that cancels out some of the distortion caused by the impact of micrometeorites.

In an attempt to prevent such attacks, NASA may instruct the spacecraft to perform protective maneuvers that move the telescope’s delicate optics away from known meteor showers headed its way.

However, the space agency notes that the recent hit was an “inevitable chance event” that was not part of a meteor shower.

In response to the unexpected incident, NASA has assembled a specialized team of engineers to examine if there is any way it can help the spacecraft reduce the effects of future micrometeorite impacts of this scale.

“With Webb’s mirrors exposed to space, we expected that occasional micrometeorite impacts would gracefully degrade the telescope’s performance over time,” said Lee Feinberg, element manager for the Webb Optical Telescope at NASA Goddard. “Since launch, we have had four smaller measurable micrometeoroid strikes that were consistent with expectations and this one most recently that is larger than our degradation predictions assumed. We will use this flight data to update our performance analysis over time and also develop operational approaches to ensure we maximize Webb’s imaging performance to the best of our ability for many years to come.”

The size of the micrometeoroid was clearly a surprise to Webb’s team, but careful design of the telescope has ensured that it can continue to function as expected.

The mission team is set to release the first images from the telescope in July, as scientists look to use the powerful observatory to unlock some of the universe’s secrets.

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