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Small Cosmic Particle Bounces Off Webb Space Telescope


Small Cosmic Particle Bounces Off Webb Space Telescope

The vast expanse of space is filled with drifting debris, not limited to just the multitude of abandoned satellites. Space is frequented by various rocks, ranging from meteoroids to meteorites, some of which come near the Earth and a few even penetrate our atmosphere, though the majority disintegrate upon entry. This phenomenon is made possible by the protective shield provided by our atmosphere. Conversely, scientific instruments located in orbit are not as fortunate.

Recently, NASA officially announced that in late May, the James Webb Space Telescope encountered a collision with a minuscule meteoroid, specifically impacting one of its significant mirrors. Although micrometeoroids are typically no larger than a grain of sand, the vast momentum and absence of an atmosphere mean that even a small object can have a bullet-like effect on a smooth surface. Despite the Webb Telescope and its parts being constructed to endure such incidents, adjustments had to be swiftly made to address the resulting distortion.

“It was always anticipated that Webb would have to endure the challenges of the space environment, including intense ultraviolet radiation, particles charged by the Sun, cosmic rays from distant sources in the galaxy, and occasional encounters with micrometeoroids within our solar system,” stated Paul Geithner, technical deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“We meticulously designed and constructed Webb with a performance cushion – in optical, thermal, electrical, and mechanical aspects – to guarantee its ability to fulfill its groundbreaking scientific mission even after enduring many years in space.”

Fortunately, the engineers do not anticipate any enduring harm from this collision, meaning that the Webb Telescope should still be capable of capturing and transmitting high-resolution images of its celestial observations next month.

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