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James Webb telescope hit by micrometeoroid: NASA

A mirror segment on the James Webb Space Telescope was hit by a micrometeoroid, but is expected to continue to function normally

A mirror segment on the James Webb Space Telescope was hit by a micrometeoroid but is expected to continue to function normally, NASA says.

A mirror on the James Webb Space Telescope was struck by a micrometeoroid last month but is expected to continue to function normally, NASA said Thursday.

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

“Webb’s achievements early in life are still far beyond expectations, and the observatory is fully capable of carrying out the science it was designed for,” it added.

Between May 23 and 25, one of the primary mirror segments of the space observatory was struck by a micrometeoroid, usually smaller than a grain of sand.

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 the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Webb’s mission includes the study of distant planets, known as exoplanets, to determine their origin, evolution and habitability, and it is expected to produce “spectacular color images” of the cosmos by mid-July.

The telescope has been aligning its instruments in recent months in preparation for its big unveiling.

NASA said micrometeoroid strikes are an “inevitable aspect of piloting a spacecraft” and “were expected when building and testing the mirror.”

“This most recent impact was larger than had been modeled, and beyond what the team could have tested on the ground,” it said.

Lee Feinberg, Webb optical telescope element manager at NASA Goddard, said that “with Webb’s mirrors exposed to space, we expected that incidental micrometeoroid impacts would gracefully diminish the telescope’s performance over time.

“Since launch, we’ve had four smaller measurable micrometeoroid attacks that have been in line with expectations,” Feinberg said.

NASA said that to protect Webb, flight teams can avert optics from known meteor showers.

It said the May micrometeoroid impact was not the result of a meteor shower, but an “inevitable coincidence”.


NASA’s Webb telescope: designed to weather micrometeoroid impacts


© 2022 AFP

Quote: James Webb telescope hit by micrometeoroid : NASA (2022, June 9) retrieved June 10, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-james-webb-telescope-micrometeoroid-nasa.html

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