Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Gyroscope trouble sees Hubble switch into 'safe mode'

Gyroscope trouble sees Hubble switch into 'safe mode'

It said Hubble went into "safe mode" on Friday because of the failure of another of the six gyroscopes used to orient the telescope. "Very stressful weekend. Right now [the Hubble Space Telescope] is in safe mode while we figure out what to do". Most recently, the telescope helped scientists firm up their evidence for the first detection of a moon circling an exoplanet.

However, in the article issued by NASA this gyroscope has been exhibiting "end-of-life" behavior for a year, and the failure was no surprise, as two other gyros have also failed.

"Built with multiple redundancies, Hubble had six new gyros installed during Servicing Mission-4 in 2009".

Two of Hubble's gyroscopes are working fine, Sembach said.

NASA says mission controllers are working to restore the 28-year-old telescope.

Gyroscopes are needed to keep the 340-mile-high (540-kilometre-high) Hubble pointed in the right direction during observations.

NASA said staff at the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute were conducting tests and analysis to get the gyro working again. Astronomers are aiming to prolong Hubble's life, but losing another gyroscope makes life hard.

Denser pockets of gas and dust, however, can resist this erosion for longer.

The troublesome gyroscope leaves two functioning ones, Space.com reports. The current problem, though, is a reminder that, with the retirement of the shuttle, NASA now lacks a means to fix or upgrade Hubble.

"Not really scary, we knew it was coming".

If not, the spacecraft will simply move on, running a "reduced-gyro" mode that uses only one spinning wheel. There isn't much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time. That extended lifetime is something the astronomical community "wants desperately", she added.

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.

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.

He is arguably most famous for discovering that the universe is expanding and the rate at which is does so - now coined the Hubble constant.

Named after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, the foremost American astronomer of the 20th century, the sophisticated optical observatory was placed into orbit about 600 kilometers (370 miles) above Earth by the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990.

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