The space rock hitting the Webb telescope was just bad luck, the NASA team says

The space rock hitting the Webb telescope was just bad luck, the NASA team says

The space rock hitting the Webb telescope was just bad luck, the NASA team says

An artist's illustration of the Webb Telescope in space.

In late May, the Webb Space Telescope’s peaceful commissioning process was interrupted by an unusually large micrometeoroid impacting one of the $10 billion observatory’s mirrors. Now, NASA’s analysis of the event shows the impact was a statistical anomaly and the telescope will be less susceptible to damage from space rocks in the futuree.

Micrometeoroids are pieces of fast-moving space debris. Most micrometeoroid impacts on spacecraft are too small to be measured; according to a NASA announcementWebb averages one to two measurable strikes per month.

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

“Even after this event, our current optical performance is still twice as good as our requirements,” said Mike Menzel, lead system engineer for the Webb mission at NASA, in the agency let go.

In other words, the impact did not affect the telescope’s ability to do its job: observing some of the oldest light in the universe, to better understand the first stars andevolution of galaxies. The web has even turned its infrared eye on ours Solar system neighbors.

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

After the May impactNASA steered Webb away from the micrometeoroid avoidance zone to protect it mirrors from small space rocks. Some of the particles can pass on 22,000 miles per hourwhich means they can hit if they hit a sensitive part of the telescope.

“Micrometeoroids hitting the mirror head (moving opposite to the direction the telescope is moving) have twice the relative velocity and four times the kinetic energy, so avoiding this direction when feasible will help extend outstanding optical performance for decades,” he said. is Lee Feinberg, Webb Optical Telescope Element Manager at NASA Goddard, at the agency let go.

The web will still be able to make observations in the direction of the avoidance zone, but it will do so at another time of year, when the Web is at the second point of its orbit and thus less susceptible to harmful micrometeoroid impacts.

More: Webb Telescope captures stunning ‘hourglass’ protostar in space

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