Gyroscope trouble sees Hubble switch into 'safe mode'

Gyroscope trouble sees Hubble switch into 'safe mode'

Gyroscope trouble sees Hubble switch into 'safe mode'

Bottom line: The Hubble Space Telescope has been in safe mode since last Friday evening, following the failure of one of the gyros that helps stabilize it. NASA is analyzing the problem and hopes to resume operations soon. Unfortunately, that could take weeks to accomplish, which means the telescope will stay in safe mode until the team is able to troubleshoot the gyroscope.

If it can't be recovered, Hubble will go into one-gyro mode, and hold the second working gyro in reserve.

The Hubble space telescope, which has been in orbit since 1990, is now out of action because of a gyroscope failure, the U.S. space agency said Monday.

The initial six gyros installed in the telescope when it was launched have even been completely replaced during the last service mission in 2009.

The telescope needs three working gyroscopes to 'ensure optimal efficiency'.

"Safe mode puts the telescope into a stable configuration until ground control can correct the issue and return the mission to normal operation", NASA said in a statement. Since Hubble's official start in 1977, thousands of people from the United States and Europe have supported the mission through building and testing hardware and software, operating the vehicle, and performing science operations.

"The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain", Rachel Osten, deputy head of the Hubble mission, said on Twitter. However, Hubble can operate in a limited capacity using a single gyroscope.

The troublesome gyroscope leaves two functioning ones, Space.com reports.

The columns arise when huge, freshly formed blue-white O and B stars give off intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds that blow away less dense materials from their vicinity. In particular, the telescope's gyros have often failed in the past, so having one fail now is not unexpected.

'Not really scary, we knew it was coming. "[We] nearly pulled the plug on it back in the spring". And so, that appears to be an issue that we don't understand fully at the moment. "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.

"There isn't much difference between 2 [gyros] and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time", said Osten. "Which the Astro community wants desperately", Osten tweeted in response.

Astronomers use the orbiting observatory to peer deeply into the cosmos, revealing faraway solar systems as well as galaxies and black holes.

The news came as a shock to the fans of the venerable space telescope, which has sent down jaw-dropping images and data to address cosmic conundrums ranging from planetary origins to the age of the universe.

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