NASA's Webb Space Telescope Experienced Permanent Damages
By Jason Hall
July 21, 2022
Wavefront sensing revealed that six surface deformations on the primary mirror of the telescope were caused by micrometeoroid strikes between May 23-25, which the agency said was routine and expected prior to launch, according to a report released by NASA via STSCI.edu.
"Each micrometeoroid caused degredation in the wavefront of the impacted mirror segment, as measured during regular wavefront sensing," the report stated. "Some of the resulting wavefront degradation is correctable through regular wavefront control; some of it comprises high spatial frequency terms that cannot be corrected.
"These should also be a small effect on the telescope throughput, which is not yet measurable. Of the six micrometeoroid strikes detected thus far through wavefront sensing, five had negligible effects, contributing a combined total of < 1 nm to the overall wavefront error."
“If you held a grain of sand on the tip of your finger at arm’s length, that is the part of the universe that you’re seeing,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson via NBC News. “Just one little speck of the universe.”
NASA said the image shows the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it had appeared 4.6 billion years prior and magnified with distant objects behind it distorted as part of gravitational lensing.
The University of California Santa Cruz shared the image on its website in a zoomable format, which allows viewers to take an even closer look at the individual galaxies depicted.
The Webb Space Telescope, which provides a much sharper image than its revolutionary predecessor, the Hubble Telescope, is able to pull otherwise faint and distant objects into sharp focus with its infrared eyes, providing viewers with a previously unseen glimpse of galaxies and star clusters.
NASA said the oldest light depicted in the image is believed to date back to about 13 billion years, during the early days of the universe.
"These images are going to remind the world that America can do big things, and to remind the American people, especially our children, that there's nothing beyond our capacity," President Joe Biden said shortly before the image was revealed alongside NASA officials.
Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, promised that the telescope would represent a turning point in how humans understand space during a news briefing last month.
"It's not an image. It's a new worldview," Zurbuchen said in June via NBC News.
The Webb Space Telescope was launched into space on Christmas Day and successfully deployed in January.