(Nexstar) — A small meteor has caused “significant irreparable damage” to NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Telescope, a new report says. Although experts say the effect was small, it prompted further investigation.
At 21 feet high, the gilded flower-shaped web mirror is the largest and most delicate ever sent into space. It consists of 18 sections, one of which was Hit bye Micrometeorites are larger than expected in May. Micrometeorites are fragments of asteroids that are usually smaller than a grain of sand, according to NASA.
At the time, Paul Geithner, deputy technical director of the project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, explained that Webb is known for its ability to survive the harsh environment of space, including micrometeorites.
In a recent version a reportWebb’s commissioning team said that while the mirrors and sunshades on the telescope are expected to slowly decay from the impact of the micrometeorites, the impact on a specific part, known as C3, “exceeded previous expectations for damage from a single small meteorite…” was exceeded. . “
Despite this, Webb’s team determined that the overall effect on the telescope was minimal. Engineers were able to realign Webb’s parts to adapt to micrometeorite damage.
Webb has seen meteors for at least six minutes since its December launch, roughly equivalent to one impact per month, according to their report. However, the damage to C3 prompted engineers to investigate whether the impact was rare, meaning it could occur once every few years, or whether Webb was “more susceptible to damage from micrometeorites than pre-launch modeling predicted.”
They are now working to determine how other micrometeorites affect Webb’s mirrors, how many asteroid fragments there are and whether the telescope should be modified to spend less time referring to orbital motion, because it is more at risk of collision. Accurate meteorite.
According to engineers, depending on the fuel consumption and expected degradation of the telescope, Webb can last more than 20 years. It was launched into space in December from French Guiana in South America and The observation point has reached a million miles On the ground in January. Then began the lengthy process of aligning the mirrors and making the infrared detectors cool enough to operate and calibrate the scientific instruments, all protected by a tennis court-sized canopy that keeps the telescope cool.
These were Webb’s first photos, which gave us a deeper understanding of both time and distance we’ve ever seen Released last week. With one exception, recent images have shown parts of the universe seen by other telescopes. But Webb’s sheer power, his position far from Earth and the use of the infrared light spectrum showed them in a new light.
The plan is to use the telescope to look so far back that scientists can peek back into the early days of the universe about 13.7 billion years ago and zoom in more sharply at the nearest cosmic objects, even our own solar system.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
“Total coffee specialist. Hardcore reader. Incurable music scholar. Web guru. Freelance troublemaker. Problem solver. Travel trailblazer.”