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A micrometeoroid just hit NASA’s James Webb space telescope

Published Jun 9th, 2022 6:16PM EDT
James Webb telescope on orbit of Earth
Image: dimazel / Adobe

NASA’s James Webb space telescope has been hit by a micrometeoroid. The space agency shared the news earlier this month. It says the micrometeoroid hit the telescope sometime between May 23 and 25. Luckily, the impact wasn’t strong enough to cause any trouble for James Webb.

NASA’s James Webb was hit by micrometeoroid

Meteoroid struck James Webb's primary mirror
A meteoroid struck the primary mirror on the James Webb. Image source: NASA/Chris Gunn

NASA is already gearing up to share the first images captured by the James Webb later this year. After its launch in December, the latest space telescope has had a relatively easy journey to its final destination. And calibrating all its mirrors and instruments has gone even better than NASA hoped. But a micrometeoroid has now taken a swing at the James Webb. Luckily, it didn’t break anything.

While NASA designed James Webb to withstand these kinds of strikes, this micrometeoroid hit one of the primary mirrors. As such, NASA engineers were concerned that it could have caused some issues. However, the space agency says that initial assessments show that the telescope is still performing at a level that exceeds all mission requirements.

The agency did note a marginal detectable effect in the data that James Webb outputs. What that effect will turn out to be, or if it will turn out to be anything noteworthy, remains to be seen.

Engineered to withstand

The James Webb Telescope in spaceImage source: OlivierLaurentPhotos / Adobe

NASA is still conducting thorough analysis and measurements of the impact. However, NASA built the James Webb space telescope to withstand impacts from space dust in its orbit. In fact, NASA engineers ran samples of the mirrors through vigorous simulations and tests. However, the meteoroid that struck James Webb was larger than the ones they modeled.

As such, there was some concern about what kind of damage it could have done. Luckily, NASA did a great job during James Webb’s preparation. The agency even went so far as to keep the optics cleaner than needed while on Earth. All of that is paying off now, as James Webb is performing beyond optimal levels. With that in mind, it should be suitable for years of service, despite this recent impact.

Sure, the James Webb being struck by a meteoroid isn’t ideal. But, because NASA put so much thought into the space telescope’s design and engineering, it shouldn’t have too hard of a time withstanding any hits that it takes. So long as the meteoroids aren’t too large.

Joshua Hawkins fell in love with writing and technology at a young age. Eventually he decided to combine the two and started writing about video games, the latest tech, and all the cool gadgets he could find. Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.