Science

Technical glitch hobbles Hubble Space Telescope

Technical glitch hobbles Hubble Space Telescope”

Osten said, 'The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. Still, the telescope can function with just two gyros, and it could even continue observing the universe with just one.

On their last servicing mission in May 2009, astronauts replaced all six of Hubble's gyroscopes. Scientists are acutely aware of that today after placing the orbiting observatory into safe mode following the failure of another gyroscope.

Scientists had already planned to reduce Hubble to using only a single gyroscope at a time once it was down to three, that being meant to prolong the space telescope's lifespan for as long as possible. "NASA is working to resume science operations", NASA said in an official statement said.

But when the telescope's operators switched the instrument to running on all three enhanced gyroscopes, one wasn't working quite as well as it should have been.

The Hubble Space Telescope has shut down and gone into protective "safe mode" after one of the gyroscopes which keep it in place failed on Sunday, team members said.

'First step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic'.

"Don't worry, Hubble has many great years of science ahead", says Kenneth Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which operates Hubble.

As a result, Hubble is in so-called safe mode with non-essential systems turned off, putting all science observations on hold. The current problem, though, is a reminder that, with the retirement of the shuttle, NASA now lacks a means to fix or upgrade Hubble.

"We knew it was coming", Osten added. "We'll work through the issues and be back", she wrote. "Which the Astro community wants desperately", Osten tweeted.

The instrument, named after astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, has been celebrated for its involvement in tracking asteroids, analysing the Kuiper Belt and documenting the nebula of dying stars.

The telescope is known to be nearing the end of its active life, with the James Webb Space Telescope - now scheduled for launch no earlier than 2021 - slated to be its successor. That way, Hubble has a longer total lifespan.



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