James Webb Telescope finds its smallest object yet

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James Webb Telescope finds its smallest object yet

The asteroid is the smallest object observed to date by the James Webb Space Telescope.

European astronomers have detected, using the James Webb Space Telescope, the presence of an asteroid the size of the Colosseum in Rome in the main asteroid belt located between the planets Mars and Jupiter.

This asteroid – 100 to 200 meters wide – is the smallest object observed to date using the space telescope, NASA said Monday.

It was detected by chance, the US Space Agency explained in a statement, and further observations will be needed to better characterize its nature and properties, it said.

< p class="e-p">The incredible sensitivity of the [James] Webb telescope made it possible to observe this object about 100 meters [wide] from a distance of more than 100 million kilometers, said Thomas Muller, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute in Germany.

The discovery of this star occurred during the calibration of the MIRI infrared observation tool, the result of a collaboration between Europeans and Americans.

James Webb , launched into space by an Ariane 5 rocket, has been operational since July 2022. This space telescope, the most powerful ever built, has collected a large amount of data and captured breathtaking images.< /p>

In project since the 1990s, it is stationed 1.5 million kilometers from Earth, with enough fuel to operate for 20 years.

One ​​of the missions of James Webb, a jewel of engineering worth 10 billion dollars, is the exploration of the very young Universe. It also aims to search for exoplanets.

The telescope was not designed to search for small objects such as this new asteroid, but Mr. Muller said that its discovery suggests that many new objects will be detected with this instrument.