Science

Hubble Space Telescope team continues to fix instrument flaws

The Hubble Space Telescope is on its way back from its latest glitch, but it’s not close to the finish line yet.

In late October, the famous observatory experienced a problem with the timing of its internal communications, taking its five science instruments offline. The Hubble team got one of those instruments, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), back online on November 7, but the other four remain in a “safe mode” of protection.

Hubble’s controllers continue to work to get those four operational as well, and have made some progress recently. For example, over the past week, “the Hubble team has identified short-term changes that could be made to the way the instruments monitor and respond to lost sync messages, as well as the way the charging computer useful monitors instruments, “wrote NASA officials. in a Hubble update on Tuesday (November 16).

Related: The Best Hubble Space Telescope Images of All Time

“This would allow science operations to continue even if several missed messages occur,” they added. “The team has also continued to analyze the instrument flight software to verify that all possible solutions are safe for the instruments.”

Over the next week, the team will test the effectiveness of these potential changes and begin to plot a recovery order for all four instruments in safe mode. This work will likely take several weeks to complete for the first instrument chosen, whatever it turns out to be, NASA officials said. So a full recovery for Hubble isn’t exactly around the corner.

As this work progresses, the Hubble team will also begin attempting to recover the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument without further changes, as was successfully done with the ACS earlier this month, “as a low-risk, interim step towards the resumption of normal science operations. “NASA officials wrote in Tuesday’s update.

Hubble launched into Earth orbit in April 1990. The famous telescope has overcome a number of problems and challenges in its historic career; the most famous, a faulty primary mirror, which was repaired by spacewalking astronauts in 1993. Astronauts repaired, maintained and upgraded Hubble on four more service missions after that, the last of which took place in 2009 .

Hubble’s top five science instruments today are the ACS, the Wide Field Camera 3, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer. The telescope’s fine guide sensors can, and sometimes do, make scientific observations.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.

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