Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Hubble in 'safe mode', but science operations suspended

Hubble in 'safe mode', but science operations suspended

But when the third one was powered up, it wasn't operating as it should be, so NASA Goddard engineers placed the telescope in safe mode while they try to figure out the problem.

The Hubble Space telescope is now in safe mode.

In connection with the damage to the telescope interrupted his work and was put into safe mode.

"Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", the NASA statement reads.

The telescope needs three working gyroscopes to "ensure optimal efficiency", mission team members have written, and the failure brings that number down to two (if the "problematic" one that had been off can't be brought back online). The remaining three available for use are technically enhanced, and, therefore, are expected to have significantly longer operational lives. "If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration", the agency stated.

Hubble is now down to two working gyroscopes and needs at least three for optimal operations but it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope. A replacement for the device, the James Webb Space Telescope, has already been established but won't launch until 2021.

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On their last servicing mission in May 2009, astronauts replaced all six of Hubble's gyroscopes. Two others have previously failed, most recently in April.

The gyroscopes on Hubble are small spinning wheels that rotate the spacecraft and keep it stabilized. Exhibiting end-of-life behavior for about a year, the gadget actually exceeded expectations.

If that fails, chances are NASA's next plan is to run the telescope with only a single gyro. While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities.

The official Hubble Twitter account echoed this sentiment, tweeting that the telescope was "built with multiple redundancies", and that even though it is left with just two gyros, it can work with just one.

The Register first noticed a questionmark over Hubble's health during the weekend, when Michigan State University astronomer Jay Strader tweeted rumours that it was in safe mode "following a gyro failure". If Hubble breaks down completely before that date, astronomers will be without a space telescope.

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