There's something wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope

There's something wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope entered into safe mode after experiencing a gyroscope failure, NASA has revealed.

As a result, Hubble is in so-called safe mode with non-essential systems turned off, putting all science observations on hold.

NASA sent a December 1999 Space Shuttle service mission (described here) that replaced failed gyros, and a mission in 2009 (the one Hubble's twitter team referred to) again replaced gyros to extend the telescope's life. It is expected to return to its normal operations after ground control performs analyses and tests.

If the space agency fails to recover the third gyro, the Hubble Space Telescope will continue to be in operation.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been at work in orbit since 1990.

Hubble is now down to two working gyros and needs at least three for optimal operations. Hubble can do good science with two gyroscopes, or even one, astrophysicist Grant Tremblay, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said via Twitter Sunday.

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Dr. Rachel Osten, the deputy head of the Hubble mission, said it had been a "very stressful weekend". "NASA is working to resume science operations", NASA said in an official statement. "While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", NASA said.

Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990 and helped publish more than 15,000 scientific papers. Hubble's pseudo-successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, was supposed to already be up and running for years by this point, but Northrop Grumman's inability to do the job it's being paid billions of dollars to do has caused over a decade's worth of delays. Hubble uses its gyroscopes to keep itself aimed precisely at what astronomers are using it to observe.

"We'll work through the issues and be back", she promised. The gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year, NASA said, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyros of the same type had already failed.

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.

But that doesn't mean it's time to panic.

It is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889.

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