NASA announced a few days ago. Small asteroids hit the Webb telescope, though no great danger. They are micrometeoroids that hit segments of the telescope’s main mirror.
Happened in late May. Initial assessments of the telescope found that the spacecraft was still functioning exceptionally well. However, the effects of the impact were noted in recent data readings.
Small but dangerous
Micrometeoroids are extremely small space debris. They can be the size of dust. They are fast moving. They are a regular part of a hostile space environment. And it will bombard the Webb telescope throughout its years in operation.
“Webb’s mirrors are exposed in space. We expected that occasional micrometeoroid impacts would degrade the telescope’s performance over time.” Said Lee Feinberg, chief of Webb optical telescope elements at NASA. “Since launch, we’ve had four impacts. These are smaller measurable micrometeoroids that were in line with expectations. This most recent one is larger than our degradation predictions assumed.”
The telescope is in a dynamic part of the solar system. There are a lot of hostile space weather phenomena. There are cosmic rays, charged solar winds and ultraviolet radiation. All can cause damage to spacecraft.
Fortunately, the design made ensures that the instrument can work for many years. The mirrors are perhaps the most essential component of the $10 billion spacecraft. They focus light from the cosmos, making it possible to image everything from nearby exoplanets to the oldest light sources in the universe.
what happens if more asteroids hit the Webb telescope? Webb can adjust the positions of its mirrors to correct for impacts. It minimizes the effects these collisions can have on the telescope’s images.
Larger events, such as meteoroid showers, are a bigger nuisance. But the telescope can be oriented away from these events to protect its optical equipment.
The telescope’s first full-color images are expected on July 12. NASA has not announced what Webb will capture. But we do know that the images will show one of the telescope’s main science targets. We can’t wait to find out.