James Webb suffers from the impact of a small meteor, a month before the start of scientific observations – Teach me about science

The James Webb Space Telescope suffered its first noticeable impact from a micrometeorite. (Technical image credit: NASA).

We’re just over a month away from seeing the first scientific images from the world’s most powerful telescope, but as expected, minute meteors are on their way. NASA announced it’s a James Webb Space Telescope He recently experienced his first noticeable impact from a small meteor on one of his mirror core segments.

Micrometeorites or micrometeorites are small rocky particles. There are billions of these in space, something that was well known before the launch of the new observatory. These effects in themselves are nothing new, they were to be expected, and Webb was designed to take “hit” of this sort. One small detail is that the exact meteor that collided with Webb recently is larger than expected, but don’t worry, it’s still working.

“In late May, Webb was hit by a dust-sized micrometeorite impact on part of the primary mirror. Not to worry: Webb continues to perform at a level that exceeds all mission requirements,” Webb’s team reported.

It is inevitable that Webb will hit some small boulders on his way, so far four impacts have been detected, the last one being the largest that has exceeded expectations. Such events will continue throughout Webb’s life and he will hold up well (hopefully) given that there is no repair task.

“With Webb’s mirrors exposed to space, we expected that an accidental micrometeorite collision would affect the telescope’s performance over time.” Feinberg told meGoddard, director of the Webb Optical Telescope Element at NASA Goddard. “Since launch, we have had four smaller, measurable impacts on the minor meteorite that were in line with expectations, and this was the most recent impact that was larger than our assumed degradation predictions. We will use this flight data to update our performance analysis over time and also to develop operational approaches to ensure that the performance of Webb images is maximized. as far as possible for many years to come.”

As explained by NASA, the Webb mirror is designed to withstand being bombarded by the environment by micrometeorites in orbit around Sun-Earth L2 from dust-sized particles flying at extreme speeds. While building the telescope, engineers used a combination of simulation and actual test effects on the mirror samples to get a better idea of ​​how the observatory could be fortified to operate in orbit.

This last effect was greater than had been calculated and exceeded what the team could demonstrate on the ground. Fortunately, the analysis shows that the telescope is still operating at a level that exceeds all mission requirements despite the marginal impact on the data.

The start date of scientific observations is preserved. On July 12, the first full color photos will be revealed And the first scientific data from the James Webb Space Telescope. In this way, the team hopes to demonstrate Webb’s abilities by officially opening his scientific observations, and to explore the universe like never before.

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