Scientists fear telescope may be damaged by Halley's Comet - report

Although the telescope is not expected to collide with the comet, scientists are researching solutions to mitigate the potential damage caused by dust and other particles in its trail.

Comet 1P/Halley as taken March 8, 1986 by W. Liller, Easter Island, part of the International Halley Watch (IHW) Large Scale Phenomena Network. (photo credit: NASA/W. LILLER/PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Comet 1P/Halley as taken March 8, 1986 by W. Liller, Easter Island, part of the International Halley Watch (IHW) Large Scale Phenomena Network.
(photo credit: NASA/W. LILLER/PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The James Webb Space Telescope is projected to pass by debris left behind by Halley's Comet in May 2023 and May 2024, according to Forbes.

Although the telescope is not expected to collide with the comet, scientists are researching solutions to mitigate the potential damage caused by dust and other particles left in the wake of the comet, Forbes reported.

According to the report, NASA operators could pursue a number of actions in order to minimize potential damage, such as maneuvering the telescope to point away from the debris in order to avert damage to the mirrors on the instrument.

In order to determine the conditions that the telescope may encounter, researchers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama are working on meteor shower forecasts.

According to Forbes, both the Eta Aquarids and the Orionids meteor showers are caused by the stream of dust left behind by Halley's Comet.

A meteor of the Orionid Meteor Shower, created by remnants of Halley's Comet which pass through the earth's atmosphere, streak through the night sky past Halley's Comet, above the San Rafael Swell outside Green River, Utah, US, October 23, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/GEORGE FREY)A meteor of the Orionid Meteor Shower, created by remnants of Halley's Comet which pass through the earth's atmosphere, streak through the night sky past Halley's Comet, above the San Rafael Swell outside Green River, Utah, US, October 23, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/GEORGE FREY)

Previous damage

In May 2022, the James Webb telescope was struck by meteor fragments, causing permanent damage to some of the instrument's mirrors, according to the Forbes report.