A few months back, NASA’s James Webb Telescope was damaged by a micro-meteoroid. It was permanently damaged. Now, it will pass through the trail of debris left behind by Halley’s Comet. Will the comet be dangerous for James Webb Telescope?
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is orbiting the Sun some 1.5 mn km from Earth. Now, it is all set to enter the path taken by the Halley’s Comet and it is strewn with the debris left behind by it in the inner solar system. This danger has become a big concern for NASA as the $10 billion James Webb Telescope was hit by a micro-meteoroid in May 2022 and it caused permanent damage to its critically important mirror. To avoid the repetition of such an incident, scientists are now working on finding a solution.
So, does this comet pose any risk to the new Webb Space telescope? “Halley’s comet itself is not going to strike the Webb telescope,” a Forbes report reveals. However, Halley’s comet orbits the Sun every 75 years or so. Hence, Halley’s comet is not expected be back in the inner solar system until 2061 when it will make its close approach to Earth. “Webb will probably be defunct by then, though it’s hoped humanity’s premier space observatory will last until the early 2040s,” the report noted.
Why do comets or meteoroids pose risk to James Webb Telescope
The engineers of the James Webb Telescope have anticipated that it will be hit by around one meteoroid per month. However, this strike rate could increase further when the telescope crosses a meteor stream. Comets are basically made from dust, rocks and ice, hence they melt and shed material when they come close to the Sun. In this process, comets eject a stream of debris on their way.
“Even tiny particles can cause physical damage to spacecraft when they hit as fast as a speeding bullet — the velocities reached in space,” a Nature report mentioned. The report says that the benefit of Webb Telescope’s engineers, NASA’s meteoroid environment office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is currently calculating meteor-shower projections. It might involve adjusting Webb to aim away from the approaching particles in order to prevent them from hitting the mirrors.