Asteroid permanently damaged NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope: report

Asteroid permanently damaged NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope: report

Even as the first images captured by Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope – the world’s largest and most powerful of its kind – have amazed the world, scientists say the device has suffered permanent damage due to series of asteroid attacks in May.

According to a newly published paper, a group of scientists said that after describing the performance of the James Webb during its commissioning phase, the telescope reported issues that “cannot be fixed”. They added that the telescope also suffered a “small effect everywhere, which is not yet measurable”.

“Currently, the greatest source of uncertainty lies in the long-term effects of micrometeoroid impacts that slowly degrade the primary mirror,” the scientists said in the report.

On May 22, the primary mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope was hit by six micrometeorites. Of these, the sixth strike caused considerable damage. It wasn’t initially thought to be too big, but now the scientists’ new paper suggests it could be more serious than they thought.

The impact “exceeded pre-launch damage expectations for a single micrometeoroid triggering further investigation and modeling,” the report further states.

Read also | Explained: How images from the James Webb Telescope are changing understanding of the universe

Although the damage did not compromise the resolution of the space telescope’s main mirror, the engineers who designed the Webb are confident that the mirrors and sunshade will inevitably slowly degrade from micrometeoroid impacts, the document states.

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

In June, following the asteroid attack, Nasa released a statement that the Webb’s mirror was “designed to withstand the bombardment of the micrometeoroid environment in its orbit around the Sun-Earth L2 from particles of the size of dust flying at extreme speeds”.

“During construction of the telescope, engineers used a mix of simulations and actual test impacts on sample mirrors to get a clearer idea of ​​how to fortify the observatory for in-orbit operation. more recent was greater than what was modeled and beyond what the team could have tested in the field,” 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 $10 billion.

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

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