NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has been damaged after the space telescope was hit earlier this year by at least 19 small space rocks, also called micrometeorites. One of the rocks reportedly left noticeable damage to an 18-karat gold-plated mirror in the telescopes. The collision reportedly occurred between May 23 and May 25 this year, and caused “irreparable” damage to a small portion of the space telescope. NASA researchers have now shared the first images showing damage from the collision in a research paper published in arXiv.org.
Micrometeorites are a common problem for all types of spacecraft in Earth orbit. According to a report from live sciences, The US Space Survellance Network is tracking more than 23,000 pieces of debris large enough to cause damage to spacecraft. The report also states that these are only the larger pieces, and millions of smaller pieces of orbital debris are nearly impossible to spot.
NASA is preparing for these inevitable effects. In fact, when the James Webb Space Telescope was being built, engineers reportedly intentionally hit it with objects the size of micrometeorites to see if communication would affect the telescope’s working and performance.
This is exactly why most of the pieces of debris haven’t really affected much of the James Webb Space Telescope’s functionality. Well, all but one of the micrometeorites, which were larger than expected in size. Of the six pieces of debris that left noticeable “distortions” on the space telescope, one remains the largest. Researchers are currently studying the site of the impact, in an attempt to determine how much damage it has caused.