A mirror on the James Webb Space Telescope was hit by a micrometeoroid last month but is expected to continue operating normally, NASA said Thursday.
“After initial evaluations, the team found that the telescope still performed at a level that exceeded all mission requirements despite a marginally detectable effect in the data,” the US space agency said.
“Webb’s early-life performance is still well above expectations, and the observatory is fully capable of performing the science it was designed to do,” he added.
One of the space observatory’s main mirror segments was impacted by a micrometeoroid, which tends to be smaller than a grain of sand, between May 23 and 25.
The telescope, expected to cost NASA nearly $10 billion, is one of the most expensive science platforms ever built, comparable to its predecessor Hubble and CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.
Webb’s mission includes studying distant planets, called exoplanets, to determine their origin, evolution and habitability, and he is expected to produce “spectacular color images” of the cosmos in mid-July.
The telescope has spent the past few months aligning its instruments in preparation for the big reveal.
NASA said micrometeoroid strikes are an “inevitable aspect of the operation of any spacecraft” and “were anticipated during the construction and testing of the mirror.”
“This most recent impact was greater than what was modeled and beyond what the team could have tested in the field,” he said.
Lee Feinberg, Webb Optical Telescope Elements Manager at NASA Goddard, said that “with the Webb mirrors exposed to space, we expected occasional micrometeoroid impacts to gracefully degrade the telescope’s performance over time. time.
“Since launch, we’ve had four smaller measurable micrometeoroid impacts that were consistent with expectations,” Feinberg said.
NASA said to protect Webb, flight crews can hijack the optics of known meteor showers.
He said May’s micrometeoroid strike was not the result of a meteor shower but an “inevitable chance event”.
NASA Webb Telescope: designed to withstand micrometeoroid impacts
© 2022 AFP
Quote: James Webb Telescope hit by micrometeoroid: NASA (2022, June 9) Retrieved June 9, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-james-webb-telescope-micrometeoroid-nasa.html
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