This may seem surprising, but even in space ice can form on the components of the James Webb telescope. How does NASA do this to control the potential and risks?
Gradually, James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Adjusts the “view” of our universe. Launched into space at the end of 2021, the lab is in the process of refining its glass. It should be ready for its scientific operations by the summer of 2022. This includes cooling a telescope designed to operate on infrared rays.
One of its tools, MIRI (which should be noted in mid-infrared), requires an operating temperature of less than -266 C. For this, As recalled NASA on March 30, 2022, it is equipped with a refrigerator. ” But radiators are needed to control its cooling and prevent the formation of ice in space. “, The company adds. One might be surprised that ice could thus form in a laboratory in the middle of space.
But where does this water come from?
To understand this, you need to go back a bit to the time JWST was launched. ” Moist air trapped between components such as the sun visor membranes and its many insulating layers. », Highlighted Space Company. This should include telescopic materials that can absorb the value of water in the Earth’s atmosphere. ” Most of this air came out after 200 seconds, but there was little moisture “, Completes NASA.
In space, water does not act like us Planet. ” In a perfect vacuum, water can only be a gas, but even space cannot be a perfect vacuum. », To explain Space Company. In this other environment, water emissions above -113 C (160 Kelvin) (lose its gas). ” If water molecules float and come in contact with a surface cooler than 140 kelvins [ndlr : -133°C], They will stick to it in the form of ice and never leave. This is especially important to avoid with web telescopes », Confirms NASA.
In order not to find itself in this situation, NASA plans to cool the James Webb, and deploy this thermal shield soon. The temperature drop was carefully managed and the order in which the components were to be cooled was not randomly selected. ” This allowed water to escape into space rather than freezing in the sensitive components. ⁇
According to MIRI, the refrigerator is responsible for transporting the heat to the other side of the James Webb sun visor, where it is hot. It is necessary to remove the water to properly cool the MIRI or to store water in the areas provided for this purpose. Know that you can follow On the line Cooling of this tool. The purpose of this device is to cool the MIRI to 6 kelvins (-270 C) without letting the water freeze – so it is important to have the appropriate heating technique.