Although the first images captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest and most powerful of its kind, have stunned the world, scientists say the device was permanently damaged by a series of attacks from asteroids in May.
according to a new article posted, A group of scientists said that after outlining James Webb’s performance during its commissioning phase, the telescope reported problems that “cannot be corrected.” They added that the telescope also suffered a “small effect everywhere, which is not yet measurable.”
“Currently, the largest source of uncertainty is the long-term effects of micrometeorite impacts slowly degrading the primary mirror,” the scientists said in the report.
On May 22, the main mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope was struck by six micrometeoroids. Of these, the sixth hit did considerable damage. It wasn’t initially considered too big, but now the scientists’ new paper suggests it could be more serious than previously thought.
The impact “exceeded pre-release damage expectations for a single micrometeoroid, triggering further investigation and modeling,” the report further stated.
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Although the damage did not compromise the resolution of the space telescope’s primary mirror, Webb’s engineers believe the mirrors and sunshield will inevitably be slowly degraded by micrometeorite impacts, the paper states.
One possible solution could be to minimize the time spent looking in the direction of orbital motion, which statistically has higher micrometeorite rates and energies, the paper states.
In June, after the asteroid strike, NASA issued a statement saying that Webb’s mirror was “designed to withstand bombardment from the micrometeoroid environment in its orbit around the Sun-Earth L2 from dust-sized particles flying at extreme speeds.
“While the telescope was being built, engineers used a combination of simulations and actual test impacts on mirror samples to get a better idea of how to harden the observatory to work in orbit. This most recent impact was larger than modeled and beyond what the team could have tested on the ground,” NASA said.
The James Webb Space Telescope was built by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) at a cost of $10 billion.
Comprising one of the largest mirrors in a space telescope, Webb launched on December 25, 2021, and since February has been orbiting the L2 point, nearly a million miles or 1.6 million kilometers from Earth.
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