As we continue to await the first batch of images and data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), we The first worrying news has also arrived. Fortunately, NASA assures that it is not so. A micrometeoroid, somewhat larger than expected, has hit one of the satellite’s mirrors. Although the shock has affected the instrument, engineers will be able to compensate to a large extent for the mismatch when interpreting the data from Earth.
Hit in the mirror.
The impact was recorded between May 23 and 25, although the news came out this week. Apparently it was one of the telescope’s main mirrors that took the hit. NASA assures that the JWST “continues to perform at a level that exceeds all mission requirements”, although it does warn of a “marginally detectable” effect on the data.
Out of calculations.
Operating in outer space means being exposed to impacts from dust and rocks, which the designers of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) were aware of. The problem is that the hit registered has been caused by an object something bigger than expected. Micrometeoroids are rocks about the size of grains of sand, and the JWST is designed to withstand their impact. We do not know, however, how big the rock was that hit the telescope this time.
Unlike Hubble, JWST isn’t exactly in an accessible location to allow for possible repairs, so engineers had to design it in (even more) detail to make it tough. Models and tests were carried out to calculate the impact resistance, although NASA admits that the impact it has suffered has exceeded the testing capabilities of the tests to which the telescope was subjected.
impacts they are not the only against the engineers tried to protect the apparatus. Temperatures are a key aspect. On the one hand, because the JWST was built in the temperate facilities of NASA, but its instruments are exposed to the cold space, protected in turn from solar radiation by several layers of shielding.
“We have always known that Webb would have to cope with the space environment, which includes strong ultraviolet light and charged particles from the Sun, cosmic rays from exotic sources in the galaxy, and occasional meteoroid strikes in our Solar System,” explains Paul Geithner, second in command in managing the JWST project.
The impact should not be underestimated in any case. The mission team will have to play with the damaged mirror in order to compensate for the damage, although it will not be possible to completely cancel the effect. Despite everything, NASA is optimistic, aware that events like this were possible and will continue to occur in all likelihood.
The device has an expected useful life of between five and ten years, it will be necessary to wait to see if this impact is an anomaly that occurred just six months after the telescope arrived at its post or if we have sent the device to an even more hostile environment. than the experts expected.
The JWST is not only designed to take hits, but also to dodge them. The telescope has some maneuverability to put your instruments safe in case of encountering a cloud of dust, sand or other similar threats. Or at least you can do it when you see them coming, which has not been the case.
Learn from experience.
Lee Feinberg, who is in charge of the optical elements of the JWST, Explain in the statement that, although it is the first to exceed the team’s “degradation expectations”, this is only the fifth impact that has been recorded from Earth. “We will use this flight data to update our performance analysis over time and also develop operational approaches to ensure that we maximize Webb’s visual performance as much as possible for years to come.”
Review of the JWST mission.
There is a little over a month left for the first and long-awaited images of this telescope to arrive, the first of its operational life, of course. It will be July 12 as announced. Not much is known about what these images will bring us, although we already know what the “first mission” assigned to the telescope is.
The James Webb departed on December 25 from French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5. The deployment mission was successful and the telescope reached Lagrange 2 just a month later. Since then it has been positioning and calibrating its instruments and sending the first images.
Image | NASA