NASA staff working 24/7 to deal with Hubble space telescope issues

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The Hubble Space Telescope – responsible for capturing some of the most powerful images of deep space – is in safe mode following a series of component failures.

While the telescope is not expected to be at risk of being permanently out of order, two of the four gyroscopes used to direct the telescope towards its targets in the sky have failed.

This has left the team behind the mission with an extremely limited ability to point the telescope.

SPACE - APRIL 25: In this handout image released from the Hubble Space Telescope the Whirlpool Galaxy is seen , April 25, 2005 released for the Hubble 15th anniversary. Nasa's Space Telescope has obited the Earth for 15 years and has taken more than 700,000 images of the comos. This image is one of the sharpest images Hubble has ever produced, taken with the newest camera. (Photo by Hubble Space Telescope/Nasa via Getty Images)
  NASA staff working 24/7 to deal with Hubble space telescope issues skynews hubble space telescope 4447247
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The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

The deputy mission head for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), Dr Rachel Osten, confirmed a rumour on Twitter that it was now in safe mode – potentially for weeks – following a gyro failure.

“It’s true,” she wrote. “Very stressful weekend. Right now [the Hubble Space Telescope] is in safe mode while we figure out what to do.”

Responding to a claim that the safe mode was “scary news for the most famous telescope in history”, Dr Osten downplayed the issues.

She explained that there are plans in place to deal with the eventuality of the HST dropping down to a one-gyro mode when two remained.

-, SPACE: Picture released 04 October 2006 by the European Space Agency shows one-half of the Hubble Space Telescope field of view with nine stars that are orbited by planets with periods of a few days. Planets so close to their stars with such short orbital periods are called 'hot Jupiters. These are considered 'candidate' exoplanets - planets that orbit stars other than our own - because most of them are too faint to allow for spectroscopic observations that would allow for a precise measure o  NASA staff working 24/7 to deal with Hubble space telescope issues skynews hubble space telescope 4447246
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Hubble’s deep view of the sky has revealed an enormous number of galaxies

Dr Osten says the decision “buys lots of extra observing time” – noting that the astronomy community wanted that “desperately”.

Dr Osten celebrated “the brilliant people” at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre who were “staffing the flight ops 24/7” and attempting to figure out what was happening with the gyroscopes.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has revisited the famous Pillars of Creation, originally photographed in 1995, revealing a sharper and wider view of the structures in this visible-light image.  NASA staff working 24/7 to deal with Hubble space telescope issues skynews nasa pillars of creation 4447273
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Hubble’s image of the Pillars of Creation is among the most famous ever taken

One of the telescope’s most famous images is a portion of the Eagle Nebula, known as the “Pillars of Creation”, which shows three columns of cold gas illuminated by light from a cluster of young stars.

The largest of the three columns is approximately four light years tall, and right at the end of the fingers at the top of the columns are dense, gaseous globules within which stars are being born.

Hubble, which is in low Earth orbit just 340 miles above the planet, was launched on board the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990.

SPACE - APRIL 25: In this handout image released from the Hubble Space Telescope the Whirlpool Galaxy is seen , April 25, 2005 released for the Hubble 15th anniversary. Nasa's Space Telescope has obited the Earth for 15 years and has taken more than 700,000 images of the comos. This image is one of the sharpest images Hubble has ever produced, taken with the newest camera. (Photo by Hubble Space Telescope/Nasa via Getty Images)
  NASA staff working 24/7 to deal with Hubble space telescope issues skynews hubble space telescope 4447247
Image:
The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

It is now in its third decade of operation and its observations have provided data behind more than 15,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications, according to NASA.

These papers have been referenced in more than 600,000 others – and NASA states that this total increases by roughly 150 every day.





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