Research, Technology

The James Webb telescope collided with a space object. Something broke?

James Webb - the most powerful space telescopeNASA, which took more than 20 years and 10 billion dollars to develop. It is expected that it will allow scientists to discover a huge number of new planets and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang. The device was launched into space in December 2021 and is currently located at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, at the Lagrange point L2. While in space, the telescope had already been exposed to space dust several times - the leaders were ready for this and were not particularly surprised. However, at the end of May, a micrometeorite hit one of James Webb's mirrors, the size of which exceeded the researchers' expectations. Is the multi-billion dollar structure damaged?

A space rock hit the primary mirror of the James Webb.

Location of James Webb?

To begin with, it is worth noting that the James telescopeWebb was sent to the Lagrange point L2 for a reason. The fact is that there the gravitational forces between the Earth and the Sun create enhanced areas of attraction and repulsion - this creates a kind of "pocket" in which spacecraft can park and not consume fuel. In addition, at the Lagrange point L2, the Earth almost completely obscures the sunlight, and it does not interfere with space exploration, because it is facing L2 with its unlit side.

Location of the James Webb telescope at the Lagrange point L2

Interesting fact: in addition to the James Webb telescope, at the Lagrange pointL2 are other spacecraft: the Spektr-RG observatory (very discussed), the Herschel and Planck telescopes, the European Gaia, and so on. In total, the Earth has five Lagrange points, each of which is suitable for accommodating various kinds of devices.

James Webb mirror damage

This space is not vacuum - there iscosmic dust and larger objects. Previously, the James Webb telescope has already managed to collide with four particles of cosmic dust the size of a grain of sand, but, fortunately, was not damaged. However, sometime between May 23 and 25, one of the 18 segments of the telescope's huge mirror was hit by a larger micrometeorite. One would think that the telescope would work worse, but no - scientists will have to slightly correct the distortion resulting from the impact, but the device continues to work at a level that "exceeds all the requirements placed on it."

The telescope is fine!

There really is no need to panic - those who builttelescope engineers are well aware of the rigors of space, and the James Webb telescope was built to withstand the rigors (of course, at a cost of $10 billion!).

We have always understood that the James Webb telescopewill interact with ultraviolet light, cosmic radiation and micrometeorites. We made it with a performance margin so that it can carry out its scientific mission even after many years of being in space,” explained technical specialist Paul Geithner (Paul Geithner).

Reportedly still in developmentengineers subjected mirror test pieces to tiny particles. So they understood what to expect from them and how to mitigate the consequences. In most cases, impacts are fraught with changes in the position of the mirrors. In this case, the telescope has sensors for detecting deviations and mechanisms for returning elements to their original position. If necessary, mirrors can dodge particle streams - of course, if they are noticed in the Control Center in time.

The main mirror of the James Webb telescope

How long do you think James Webb will be in business? Here's the answer.

How to repair the James Webb telescope?

In the near future, even when hit by largeparticles, the termination of the James Webb mission is not planned. It is worth considering that it is located in a safer place than the Hubble telescope - during its entire existence it has even been subjected to collisions with large space debris and, despite this, it has been operating for more than 30 years. True, this observatory is much closer to the Earth, at an altitude of 545 kilometers, and you can fly to it to make repairs - the last such mission was completed in 2009. And "James Webb" is very far away, so it can only be repaired remotely.

Damaged Hubble panel returned to Earth after one of the repair missions

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The long-awaited telescope has already begun its work, andthe collision did not affect the observation schedule. It is expected that the first pictures of "James Webb" will appear on July 12 - we will definitely write about it. Perhaps the photographs will show galaxies, the existence of which we still did not know. In order not to miss this important event, subscribe to our Telegram channel.