The first significant micrometeoroid impact on NASA's next-generation space observatory came less than six months after launch, but the agency appears to be unconcerned. The James Webb Telescope was launched on December 25, 2021. It took months to reach the deep space station. In the meantime, a fairly intensive procedure was used for him to carry out a series of observations and setups regarding his calibration. However, the James Webb Telescope was hit by a Micro Meteorid.
NASA recently announced that the first science-quality photos from the telescope will be released on July 12.
Now, NASA announced on Wednesday (June 8th) that the observatory was hit by micrometeoroids, tiny particles of space debris. However, there is nothing to worry about. At least for now it is. It is thought that the observatory's program and scientific studies will not be disrupted.
"We hypothesized that periodic micrometeoroid effects with Webb's mirrors exposed to space would gently reduce telescope performance over time," said Lee Feinberg, Webb optical telescope element manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. We've seen four small measurable micrometeoroid attacks since launch, consistent with predictions, and this is larger than our recent disruption estimates predicted."
According to the statement, the most serious of the strikes occurred between May 23-25 and affected the C18 region of the 3-piece gold-plated hexagon primary mirror.
JWST is expected to encounter micrometeoroid impacts like other spacecraft and is built to withstand them.
Engineers at the observatory exposed mirror samples to real effects to see how the mission would affect their findings.
The current impact was greater than the impact that mission personnel could model or test on the ground, according to the statement.
Despite the event occurring so early in the observatory's life, NASA officials are optimistic that the $10 billion telescope will continue to function properly.
"We knew Webb had to withstand intense UV light and charged particles from the sun, cosmic rays from exotic sources in the galaxy, and the occasional impact of micrometeoroids in our solar system," said Paul Geithner of NASA Goddard in a statement.
“We developed Webb with the optical, thermal, electrical and mechanical performance margins in mind to ensure it can complete its ambitious science goal even after many years in space.”
In addition, officials emphasized in the announcement that JWST is in better shape with its optics than the agency had expected.
Authorities wrote that some micrometeoroid attacks could be predicted. The command team could point the JWST's optical systems toward safety during known meteor showers, for example when the spacecraft is scheduled to pass through known meteor showers. The current collision, on the other hand, was not part of a meteor shower, and the statement described it as an "inevitable random event."
Engineers can fine-tune the 18 main mirror parts in the observatory after an impact to keep the mirror as a whole well calibrated.
NASA is focusing on better understanding both the specific event and environment the observatory will encounter during its mission as the JWST team continues to assess the impact.
According to astronomers, the telescope orbits Earth-sun Lagrange point 1 in the opposite direction of the sun, about 1.5 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Earth.
“We will use this flight data over time to improve our performance evaluations and establish operational pathways to ensure we get the most out of Webb's imaging capabilities for many years to come,” Feinberg said.