Space Rock attack on Webb telescope was just bad luck, NASA team says

Space Rock attack on Webb telescope was just bad luck, NASA team says
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An artist's illustration of the Webb telescope in space.

In late May, the Webb Space Telescope’s smooth commissioning process was disrupted by an extraordinarily large micrometeor impact on one of the $10 billion observatory’s mirrors. Now, a NASA-led analysis of the event indicates the impact was a statistical anomaly and the telescope will be less susceptible to space rock damage in the

Micrometeoroids are pieces of fast moving space debris. Most micrometeorite impacts on spacecraft are too small to measure; according to a NASA launchWebb averages one to two measurable strikes per month.

A June report by the Space Telescope Science Institute found that the May attack caused significant damage to the C3 segment of the telescope, one of Webb’s 18 hexagonal mirrors. Despite the shock, the team’s assessment was that Webb “should meet their optical performance requirements for many years.”

“Even after this event, our current optical performance is still twice as good as our requirements,” Mike Menzel, Webb’s principal mission systems engineer at NASA, told a news agency. release.

In other words, the impact did not affect the telescope’s ability to do its job: to observe some of the oldest lights in the universe, to better understand the first stars and tThe evolution of galaxies. Webb has even put his infrared eye on our solar system numberbros.

At that time, the Webb the team’s main concern whether the May strike was representative of more hits a to come or just bad luck. The new analysis, by a group of experts from NASA, the maker of the telescope’s mirror, and the Space Telescope Science Institute, indicates the latter.

After the impact of MayNASA moved Webb away from the micrometeorite avoidance zone, to protect the mirrors of the tiny space rocks. Some of the particles may quickly pass into 22,000 miles per hourwhich means they can pack a punch if they hit a sensitive part of the telescope.

“Micrometeoroids hitting the mirror head (moving in the opposite direction that the telescope is moving) have twice the relative velocity and four times the kinetic energy, so avoiding this direction when feasible will help extend the exquisite optical performance for decades,” said Lee Feinberg. , element manager for the Webb Optical Telescope at NASA Goddard, at an agency release.

Webb will still be able to make observations in the direction of the avoidance zone, but will in other time of year, when Webb is at a different point in its orbit and therefore less susceptible to damaging micrometeoroid impacts.

More: Webb Telescope Captures Stunning ‘Hourglass’ Protostar in Space

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