NASA confirms Webb telescope was hit by micrometeoroid

posted on 06/09/2022 17:41

(credit: NASA/STScI)

A mirror on the James Webb Space Telescope was hit by a micrometeoroid last month, but the equipment is expected to continue operating normally, NASA confirmed on Thursday.

“After initial assessments, the team found that the telescope still functions at a level that exceeds all mission requirements, despite a detectable marginal effect on the data,” the US space agency said.

“Webb’s early life performance is still far above expectations, and the telescope is capable of performing the scientific functions it was designed for,” he added.

One of the segments of the equipment’s main mirror was impacted by a micrometeoroid, an object that is usually smaller than a grain of sand, between the 23rd and 25th of May.

NASA claims that impacts from these tiny objects are an “unavoidable aspect of any spacecraft’s operation”.

“This latest impact was greater than the models performed and beyond what the team could have tested in the field,” the US agency said.

The Webb telescope, estimated to cost NASA nearly 10 billion dollars, is among the most expensive science platforms ever built, comparable only to its predecessor Hubble and the Large Hadron Collider – the largest particle accelerator in existence – at Cern. (European Organization for Nucellar Research), located in Switzerland.

Webb’s mission includes studying planets outside the solar system, known as exoplanets, to determine their origin, evolution and habitability, and the equipment is expected to produce “spectacular color images” of space in mid-July.

The telescope has spent the last few months aligning its instruments in preparation for the big reveal.

Lee Feinberg, Elements Manager for the Webb Optical Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said: “With Webb’s mirrors exposed in space, occasional micrometeoroid impacts were expected to degrade the telescope’s performance over time.” .

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