Risk of space rock collisions may limit where JWST can look in the sky


After an unexpectedly large micrometeoroid hit one of the main mirrors on the James Webb Space Telescope, its operators are considering not pointing it in some directions to minimise future head-on collisions


14 July 2022

Artist conception of the James Webb Space Telescope, dating to 2019.

Artist’s illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope

Adriana Manrique Gutierrez, NASA Animator

Scientists may have to avoid pointing the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in certain directions too often for fear of damage from space rocks.

During the six-month period of instrument testing called commissioning, JWST was struck by at least six micrometeoroids, pieces of space dust that orbit the sun. This wasn’t unexpected – space is full of these tiny rocks, and the team predicted one collision per month – but one that struck one of the telescope’s main mirror segments in May …

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