Astronomers ‘chance’ detect small asteroid with James Webb


Using the James Webb Space Telescope, European astronomers have detected a previously unknown asteroid the size of the Colosseum in Rome between the planets Mars and Jupiter.

The asteroid, which measures from 100 m to 200 m in length, is the smallest object observed so far with the telescope, NASA announced on Monday (6).

European astronomers “chance detected” the asteroid, the US agency said in a note, adding that more observations were needed to determine its nature and properties.

“Completely unexpectedly, we detected a small asteroid,” said Thomas Muller, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany.

The discovery came during calibration of the telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), which operates at mid-infrared wavelengths.

“Webb’s incredible sensitivity made it possible to see this object from approximately 100 meters at a distance of more than 100 million kilometers,” said Muller.

Webb, which has been operating since July, is the most powerful space telescope ever built and has recorded an unprecedented amount of data as well as stunning images.

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