(NEXSTAR) — A small meteor has caused “significant irreparable damage” to NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Telescope, a new report says. While experts say the effect was small, it prompted further investigation.
At 21 feet tall, the flower-shaped gold-plated Web Mirror is the largest and most delicate ever sent into space. It consists of 18 sections, one of which was slapped bye Larger than expected micrometeorites 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 it was known that Webb would have to survive the harsh environment of space, including micrometeorites.
In a recent version ReportWebb’s commissioning team said that while the mirrors and sun shields on the telescope are expected to slowly decay from the impacts of the micro-meteorites, the impact on a specific segment, known as C3, “exceeded previous expectations for damage from a single small meteorite.”
Despite this, Webb’s team determined that the overall effect on the telescope was negligible. The engineers were able to realign Webb’s parts to adapt to micrometeorite damage.
Webb has experienced at least six minute meteors 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 happen once every few years, or if Webb was “more susceptible to damage from micrometeorites than pre-launch modeling predicted.”
They are now working to determine how other micrometeorites might 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, as it might be more at risk of collision. Accurate meteorite.
According to engineers, depending on the use of fuel, and the expected deterioration 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 off 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 canopy the size of a tennis court that keeps the telescope cool.
They were Webb’s first photos, which gave us a deeper look into both time and distance that 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, location far from Earth, and use of the infrared light spectrum showed them in a new light.
The plan is to use the telescope to look back so far that scientists get a glimpse into the early days of the universe about 13.7 billion years ago and zoom in on the closest cosmic objects, even our own solar system, in sharper focus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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