Webb telescope hit by tiny meteoroid but should still function well

A tiny meteoroid has hit one of the 18 mirrors of the Webb telescope. But engineers had taken this possibility into account since there are so many tiny particles flying around in space.

The damage inflicted by the dust-sized micrometeoroid is producing a noticeable effect in the observatory’s data but is not expected to limit the mission’s overall performance.

James Webb was launched in December to succeed the revolutionary – but now ageing – Hubble Space Telescope.

Astronomers are due to release its first views of the cosmos on 12 July.

The US space agency Nasa said these images would be no less stunning because of what’s just happened.

The speed at which things move through space means even the smallest particles can impart a lot of energy when colliding with another object. Webb has now been hit five times with this latest event being the most significant.

The possibility of micrometeoroid hits was anticipated and contingencies like this were incorporated into the choice of materials, the construction of components and the different modes of operating the telescope.

Engineers will adjust the positioning of the affected mirror segment to cancel out a portion of the introduced distortion, but they can’t remove it all.

July 12 will be a big day in astronomy.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … even the smallest particles can impart a lot of energy when colliding with another object…

    I would expect NASA engineers to design a lot of redundancy into the mirror array on just this account, but doesn’t this also call for repositioning and realignment of the whole ‘scope?

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