Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Photo by: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

NASA’s $10 Billion Space Telescope Hit by Micrometeoroid

NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was recently hit by a micrometeoroid. One of the 18 golden mirror segments on the telescope was hit, causing some minor damage.

June 09, 2022

Although the collision has caused some issues that must be corrected by the mission team, NASA is positive that the telescope is “still performing at a level that exceeds all mission requirements.

The culprit of the telescope’s damage was a micrometeoroid, a space particle that is usually smaller than a grain of sand. The Earth’s atmosphere comes into contact with millions of meteoroids and micrometeoroids regularly. Our atmosphere serves as a protective layer and vaporizes most of the particles on contact. In contrast, spacecrafts and telescopes do not have this same atmospheric bubble, making avoiding these meteoroid impacts nearly impossible.

During its testing on Earth, NASA engineers built the Webb Space Telescope to survive through the micrometeoroid environment, a million-mile orbit, and high-velocity hits. The engineering team endeavored to put the Webb telescopes through simulations and test impacts to understand if the mirror samples would withstand the elements. Unfortunately, the real-life impacts the Webb telescope is facing in space are beyond what the team would have been able to test or model on the ground.

Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Photo by: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Paul Geithner, a NASA technical deputy project at the Goddard Space Flight Center, was not surprised at the collusion saying, “We always knew that Webb would have to weather the space environment, which includes harsh ultraviolet light and charged particles from the Sun, cosmic rays from exotic sources in the galaxy, and occasional strikes by micrometeoroids within our solar system.”

Even with the small setback, the James Webb Space Telescope is exceeding expectations since its initial launch. Soon it will be able to use infrared light to see inside the atmosphere of exoplanets and some of the first galaxies in existence. The teams at NASA are hopeful that updated analysis and learnings from the telescope collusion will allow them to maximize the Webb telescope’s imaging performance for years to come.

Next Up

Watch NASA's Asteroid-Crashing DART Mission Make Impact

NASA sent a spacecraft on a mission to crash into an asteroid, so how did it go?Updated 9/26/22

Watch Out! Amateur Astronomer Watches as Jupiter Gets Whacked

Jupiter is the OG best friend in the solar system. It finds all the tiny little comets and asteroids heading for the vulnerable inner planets and takes one for the team, chewing up the dangerous rocks in its thick atmosphere. It happened again just recently, and this time an amateur astronomer caught it in the act.

Astronomers May Have Found a Rare “Free-Floating” Black Hole

How do you see a perfectly black object in the middle of a pitch-dark night? It sounds like the start of an annoying riddle, but it’s really the question faced by astronomers when they want to search for black holes.

When We’ll Know if NASA’s Asteroid Impact Test was a Success

Recently NASA’s DART mission succeeded in its primary goal, which was to slam a spacecraft face-first into an asteroid. For science. The intention of the mission was to test if we could actually redirect an asteroid and send it into a different orbit. But how and when will we know if it worked?

Six Planets are Retrograde, What Does that Mean for You?

Spoiler alert: It's an optical illusion.

NASA Launches CAPSTONE to Test Experimental Orbit Around the Moon

In preparation for future missions, NASA is testing a never-been-flown-before orbit around the Moon in search of the most efficient deep space route for space travel.

Want to Name a Planet? Now’s Your Chance

Read on to learn about this rare opportunity to name a distant world observed by the James Webb Telescope.

The Nobel Prize Fell Into a Black Hole (and That’s a Good Thing)

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics is being awarded to scientists to have dedicated their careers to the study of black holes.

What Screaming Black Holes are Telling Us

In 2002, NASA’s orbiting X-ray observatory, the Chandra telescope, mapped out the movements of hot gas in a cluster of galaxies sitting 250 million light-years away.

What We Learn from the Lunar Surface

Sure, the Moon is cool to look at, and fun to think about it. And it literally affects us here on the Earth: without the Moon, we’d be missing half our tides, and likely our planet’s rotation wouldn’t be as stable as it is.

Related To: