Meteorite impact leaves ‘incorrigible’ damage to James Webb Telescope mirror | Science and Ecology | D.W.

Since its launch, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been hit by at least 19 small space rocks. But one small rock in particular, a larger-than-expected micrometeorite, had a big effect on NASA’s new Deep Space Telescope.

Now, the space agency has just published images of the mirrors of its telescope, in addition to the first results of its analysis. Earlier, in June, NASA revealed impact of micrometeorites.

Although the size of the space particle is larger than the team had expected, the damage is fortunately isolated to just one of the observatory’s 18 mirrors, the C3 mirror, as seen in images included in a new report. detailed situation. published in the prepress database

Great performance from the James Webb Telescope

So the impact, which was caused by a micrometeorite that hit the James Webb Space Telescope likely between May 22 and May 24, left “irreparable” damage to a small part of that mirror, the report said. However, as reported Live Sciencee, this small bump does not seem to have inhibited the performance of the telescope at all. In fact, the James Webb’s performance “almost entirely” exceeded expectations, the researchers said.

(Damage can be seen in the lower right corner of the image.)

Yet NASA scientists are still trying to assess the real impact that micrometeorite impacts like this could have on operations at the observatory, which, based on fuel consumption, is expected to last 20 years. in the space.

Collisions “in line with expectations”

Similarly, the researchers said micrometeorite impacts should be common long before the telescope launches.

“Inevitably, any spacecraft will encounter micrometeorites,” the report said. “On start-up, the wavefront sensors recorded six localized surface deformations in the primary mirror that are attributed to the impact of micrometeorites.”

These deformations occurred at a “rate of approximately one per month”, according to the report, which is “in line with pre-launch expectations”.

According to reports, during the construction of the JWST, engineers intentionally hit mirror samples with micrometeorite-sized objects to see how those impacts would affect the telescope’s performance.

Erroneous previous models?

Now scientists are trying to get ahead of the problem, investigating whether the C3 collision was a ‘rare event’ that only happens ‘once in many years’, or whether pre-launch models went wrong. misled about the frequency of such significant impacts.

Pending further analysis, and despite the unexpected impact on the C3 mirror, the researchers nevertheless found that the telescope was functioning well after six months of commissioning, and that it had a bright future of discovery ahead of it.

The JWST was designed “to enable fundamental advances in our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies, stars, and planetary systems,” the report says. “Now we know for sure that it will.”

Edited by Felipe Espinosa Wang.

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