Over a month after the Hubble Telescope went dark in space with all its instruments forced into safe mode, engineers have recovered the third crucial instrument onboard. The Hubble team recovered the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph,s moving the telescope closer to full operational capability.
The team is also continuing work on developing and testing changes to instrument software that would allow them to conduct science operations even if they encounter several lost synchronisation messages in the future. “Those changes would first be installed on the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph once they’re completed and tested within a few weeks,” Nasa said in an update.
Nasa is planning to introduce similar changes to other instruments as well and has not detected any synchronisation message issues since monitoring began November 1.
WHICH HUBBLE INSTRUMENTS HAVE BEEN RECOVERED?
Nasa recovered the Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument, which began operations earlier this month. The camera was selected as the first instrument to recover as it faces the fewest complications should a lost message occur. The Advanced Camera for Surveys was designed primarily for wide-field imagery in visible wavelengths, although it can also detect ultraviolet and near-infrared light.
Next, the team recovered the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, which is the most heavily used Hubble instrument onboard representing more than a third of the spacecraft’s observing time. The Wide Field Camera 3 is the main imager on the telescope. It has a camera that records visible and ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths of light and is 35 times more sensitive in the UV wavelengths than its predecessor, Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.
Engineers have now recovered the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph that focuses exclusively on ultraviolet (UV) light and is the most sensitive ultraviolet spectrograph ever. The instrument increases Hubble’s sensitivity by at least 10 times in the UV spectrum and up to 70 times when looking at extremely faint objects. Apart from these, Hubble also has a Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS), which provides pointing information for the spacecraft by locking onto guide stars.
WHY WAS HUBBLE TELESCOPE IN SAFE MODE?
The Hubble telescope went into safe mode on October 25 after it was briefly restored following a similar glitch on October 23. The error code coming from the science instrument onboard indicated multiple losses of synchronisation messages. These messages provide timing information that the instruments use to correctly respond to data requests and commands.
Following this, the telescope went into safe mode. Hubble had gone dark in June earlier this year as well. The month-long shut down was due to a faulty payload computer onboard Hubble that coordinates science operations.