An asteroid impact permanently damaged Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope: report

An asteroid impact permanently damaged Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope: report

Even as the first images taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope — the world’s largest and most powerful of its kind — stunned the world, scientists said the device suffered permanent damage from a series of asteroid strikes in May.

According to a newly released publication, a group of scientists said that after describing the James Webb’s performance during its commissioning phase, the telescope reported problems that “cannot be corrected.” They added that the telescope also had a “small effect that is not yet measurable.”

“The biggest source of uncertainty right now is the long-term effects of micrometeorite impacts, which slowly deplete 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 micrometeorites. Of these, the sixth strike caused significant damage. It wasn’t originally thought to be too big, but now scientists’ new paper suggests it could be more serious than thought.

The impact “exceeded the pre-launch anticipated damage for a single micrometeoroid, prompting further investigation and modelling,” the report said.

Also read | Explained: How images from the James Webb Telescope are changing the understanding of the Universe

Although the damage did not affect the resolution of the space telescope’s primary mirror, the engineers who designed the Webb believe the mirrors and sunshade will inevitably be slowly degraded by micrometeorite impacts, the paper says.

A possible solution could be to minimize the time spent looking in the direction of orbital motion, which statistically has higher micrometeoroid rates and energies, the paper continues.

In June, after the asteroid attack, NASA issued a statement saying the Webb mirror was “designed to withstand bombardment from the micrometeoroid environment in its orbit around Sun-Earth L2 of dust-sized particles traveling at extreme speeds.” fly to resist”.

“During the construction of the telescope, engineers used a mix of simulations and actual test impacts on mirror samples to get a clearer idea of ​​how to mount the observatory for on-orbit operations. This 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 US$10 billion.

Consisting of one of the largest mirrors in a space telescope, Webb was launched on December 25, 2021 and has been orbiting the L2 point since February – almost a million miles or 1.6 million kilometers from Earth.

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