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Space & Astronomy

James Webb Space Telescope hit by tiny micrometeoroid

By T.K. Randall
June 9, 2022 · Comment icon 3 comments

James Webb's mirrors are vulnerable to micrometeoroid hits. Image Credit: NASA
The next-generation telescope has been hit by a tiny space rock, but there's no need to be too concerned about it.
It's fair to say that prior to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope - which had taken several decades and billions of dollars to design and build - there was a sizable amount of anxiety and trepidation among those who had spent the better part of their lives working on it.

Those fears soon began to melt away, however, as the telescope soared into the heavens just in time for Christmas last year, and while it has since successfully reached its destination, it is not difficult to remain concerned about its potential fragility over the long term.

Such concerns were brought into sharp focus this week when NASA revealed that one of the telescope's mirrors had been struck by a dust-sized micrometeoroid.

This might not sound like anything significant, however even a tiny speck of dust can cause damage if it is traveling at high enough speeds.
According to reports, the micrometeoroid did produce a "noticeable effect" on the telescope's data, however its engineers designed the mirrors to be able to withstand such impacts.

"We always knew that Webb would have to weather the space environment, which includes harsh ultraviolet light and charged particles from the Sun, cosmic rays from exotic sources in the galaxy, and occasional strikes by micrometeoroids within our Solar System," said NASA's Paul Geithner.

"We designed and built Webb with performance margin - optical, thermal, electrical, mechanical - to ensure it can perform its ambitious science mission even after many years in space."

In other words - everything should be fine, at least for now.

Source: BBC News | Comments (3)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by L.A.T.1961 2 years ago
It doesn't sound significant, a small blemish or chip on a mirror segment would reduce image contrast by a tiny amount.   
Comment icon #2 Posted by NCC1701 2 years ago
I hope they checked if there isn't a collection of particles that somehow heaps up at the lagrange-point.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Earl.Of.Trumps 2 years ago
If the particles heap up like that, they would not be moving at high speed relative to the telescope.  So it sounds to me like this is just a random dust particle shooting on bye.

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