1
$\begingroup$

Unfortunately a meteorite has already hit the telescope and caused irreversible damage to it. I was wondering if they could have provided a cover or shield, to protect it when it is not observing. Or does it need to be observing constantly and so cannot be covered to protect it from such damage causing collisions?

$\endgroup$
6
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related: astronomy.stackexchange.com/q/49532/16685 $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 21:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sounds complicated. And heavy. And moving it would chew up energy, and generate heat. What kind of shield do you recommend that will stop rocks travelling at upto 40 km/s? $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 22:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I suspect there probably isn't much downtime for the JWST; They probably have more good proposals for observing time coming in than there is actual time, by an order of magnitude or two. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 23:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In addition, with or without a magic shield, momentum conservation leads to a need to realign. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 14:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PM 2Ring I agree and also I wonder how they plan on dealing with this hazard, on any future manned space travel to Mars ? $\endgroup$
    – Peter U
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 15:08

1 Answer 1

5
$\begingroup$

This would not be possible. The JWST doesn't have downtime. It is always observing, or moving into position to observe (which requires it to be observing guide stars etc).

A shield that would work would be too heavy. Meteorites can come from any direction. You would completely surround the telescope and completely block out light.

Meteorites are expected. The telescope is not damaged. The telescope is designed to be hit repeatedly during its deployment. Your language is unreasonably dramatic. You should say "A meteorite has hit the telescope and has had a marginally detectable effect", which is a lot different from "done irreversible damage".

$\endgroup$
8
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You don't want to unduly minimize the impact either. If JWST continued to receive strikes at the rate implied by the first strike, it's operational lifetime would be reduced to less than its design parameters. $\endgroup$
    – antlersoft
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 14:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do all Solar Systems have meteors, comets etc. , rocks left over from the formation of a Solar System, or is this unknown ? Also does interstellar Space have these damage causing meteorites as well ? Sorry if this is going away from the original topic. $\endgroup$
    – Peter U
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 14:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @James K but the meteorite did cause noticeable damage to the Space Telescope which cannot be fixed . It may be minor but if it becomes a frequent event ,then yes it will be serious. $\endgroup$
    – Peter U
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 15:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do all Solar Systems have meteors, comets etc. , rocks left over from the formation of a Solar System - Yes (as far as we know) . interstellar Space have these damage causing meteorites Yes, but fewer. Feel free to ask a new question! $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 15:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ " cause noticeable damage to the Space Telescope" not really. This is what insurers call normal wear and tear. This kind of event can happen pretty regularly without degrading the science. The coolant would run out long long before the accumulation of this kind of impact would cause functional damage. (ie damage that affects the ability of the telescope to do science) $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Commented Jul 28, 2022 at 15:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .