The web telescope was struck by a micrometer but no major damage

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NASA’s $ 10 billion James Webb Space Telescope Has faced a difficult encounter with an alien hazard: it has been deformed by a micrometeroid.

The micrometeroid strike does not seem to have significantly confused Webb’s vision, nor is it possible to make revolutionary observations of the universe, including the capture of light that emerged 13 billion years ago. Telescope, Launched From French Guiana on Christmas, it is still being measured and is performing better by all accounts.

But a direct hit on a mirror surprised NASA and is still being analyzed. Details of the micrometeroid strike were revealed by NASA in a blog post dedicated to the web.

“Between May 23 and 25, NASA’s James Web Space Telescope made an impact on its primary glass segment.” The NASA web blog said. “After initial evaluations, the team found that the telescope was still operating at a level that exceeded all work requirements, despite a somewhat detectable effect on the data.”

NASA says 18 sections of glass can be adjusted individually to respond to such meteorite impacts.

“By repairing the condition of the affected section, engineers can undo a portion of the wreckage … yet not all degradation can be undone this way,” the NASA blog said. “Engineers in the recently affected section have already made the first adjustment … and a planned additional glass adjustment will make this correction much better.”

The exact amount of micrometeroid is unknown. Heidi Hummel, a long-time telescope astronomer, said it was no bigger than a grain of sand. And will be used to study our solar system. Even the smallest thing can cause damage due to the incredible speed The telescope orbits the sun and occasionally collides with a random particle.

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This is a known danger, because even though it is lonely in space it is not as empty as it seems.

“There is no loss to science from this phenomenon.… This telescope is in space – we know there will be minor impacts on it. We were surprised to have such a success so soon,” Hummel said.

He said scientists expect such an impact on average every five years or so.

Announced as the long-awaited successor to the still-functioning Hubble Space Telescope, this extraordinarily complex laboratory orbits the Sun about 1 million miles from Earth. It is too far away for astronauts to visit, and it is not designed to be adjusted or replaced.

The web has been going through a “commissioning” phase for several months as its tools are calibrated and 18 gold-plated, hexagonal mirrors are aligned to function as a large mirror about 21 feet in diameter.

So far, NASA has not reported anything other than success.

“Aeronautics experts are fascinated by how well things are going (but don’t confuse it, yes we can be superstitious too) and eager to start science!” Michael Turner, an astronomer at the University of Chicago, said in an email.

The telescope, which was folded by itself when launched last year, blossomed in several days The wide solar shield opened And glasses were used. It took 29 days for the telescope to reach its outpost, while other telescopes operated safely, orbiting the so-called L2, which provided scientists with data on the frequency of micrometers.

“When the telescope was built, engineers used a combination of simulations and actual test impacts on glass models to gain a clearer idea of ​​how to strengthen the observation center to operate in orbit. The NASA web blog said.

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The web is different from most telescopes: it is wider than the binoculars, and the glasses are more exposed than if they were tucked into a tube. The telescope is designed to observe the universe at infrared wavelengths outside Hubble’s detection range.

This requires very cool glasses and tools. That is why the mirrors are always away from the earth and the sun. NASA has announced that the “first light” images will be released on July 12, but did not say what they will show.

Already, it has created the image of a star, which is used to center the mirror. In the background of the film are several galaxies that lit up billions of years ago, and it has thrilled astronomers who expect to see more deeply into web space (and into the past) than the Hubble launched in 1990.

The Web has several goals, including studying the early light of the universe that emerged a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. It looks at the evolution of galaxies and studies objects in our own solar system, including tiny, icy bodies orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune’s orbit.

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