November 29, 2022

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The NASA team says the space rock hit on Webb's telescope was just bad luck

The NASA team says the space rock hit on Webb’s telescope was just bad luck

Artist's illustration of the Webb Space Telescope.

In late May, the quiet commissioning of the Webb Space Telescope was interrupted by an unusually large meteorite strike on one of the observatory’s $10 billion mirrors. Now, analysis of the event led by NASA indicates The effect was a statistical anomaly And the telescope will be less likely to be damaged by space rocks in the futuree.

Micrometeorites are pieces of fast-moving space debris. Most micrometeorite impacts on spacecraft are too small to measure; according to NASA versionWebb averages one to two measurable strikes per month.

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

“Even after this event, our current optical performance is still twice as high as our requirements,” Mike Menzel, NASA’s Webb mission systems engineer, said in a statement. Release.

In other words, the impact didn’t affect the telescope’s ability to do its job: observing some of the oldest light in the universe, in order to better understand the first stars.The evolution of galaxies. Webb even turned an infrared eye on us The neighing of the solar systempurs.

At the time, Webb The team’s main concern was whether the May strike represented more strikes to me Come Or just bad luck. The new analysis — by a group of experts from NASA, the telescope’s mirror manufacturer, and the Space Telescope Science Institute — points to the latter.

after effect mayNASA diverted Webb away from the micrometeorite avoidance zone, to protect the planet small mirrors space rocks. Some particles can quickly press in 22,000 mphwhich means they can pack a punch if they hit a sensitive part of the telescope.

“Micrometeorites hitting the mirror head (moving opposite the direction the telescope is moving) have twice the relative velocity and four times the kinetic energy, so avoiding this direction when possible will help extend the impressive optical performance by decades,” said Lee Feinberg, director. Elements of the Webb Optical Telescope at NASA Goddard, at the agency Release.

Webb will still be able to make observations in the direction of the avoidance zone, but he will in another place time to year, when Webb is at a different point in its orbit Thus less susceptible to harmful micrometeorites strikes.

More: Webb telescope captures stunning initial ‘hourglass’ in space

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