Engineers have successfully recovered one of the instruments on the Hubble Space Telescope that is flying in safe mode after suspending science operations. The Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument began science operations even as other instruments remained in safe mode.

The camera was selected as the first instrument to recover as it faces the fewest complications should a lost message occur. The Hubble Space Telescope went into safe mode on October 25 and Nasa launched an investigation to figure out the root of the problem.

“The Hubble team has continued investigating the root cause of the synchronization issues and has seen no additional problems. The team will continue looking into possible short-term solutions this week and develop estimates for implementation,” Nasa said in a statement.

The agency added that the team will discuss returning the other instruments to operational status and resuming their science observations.

Instruments on Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope has three types of instruments that analyse light from the universe: cameras, spectrographs and interferometers.

The flying observatory is equipped with two cameras: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS)and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) that work in tandem to capture a wide-field view of the universe. The ACS which has been recovered from safe mode was designed primarily for wide-field imagery in visible wavelengths, although it can also detect ultraviolet and near-infrared light.

The Spectrographsonboard the Hubble break light down to its component parts, similar to how a prism splits white light into a rainbow. Any object that absorbs or emits light can be studied with a spectrograph to determine characteristics such as temperature, density, chemical composition and velocity.

According to Nasa, the third instrument, interferometers, serve a dual purpose — they help the telescope maintain a steady aim and also serve as a scientific instrument. The three interferometers aboard Hubble are called the Fine Guidance Sensors. The Fine Guidance Sensors measure the relative positions and brightness of stars.

Hubble’s science instruments issued error codes indicating the loss of a specific synchronisation message on October 23. The message provides timing information that the instruments used to correctly respond to data requests and commands.

Engineers had restored the issues but the spacecraft re-entered safe mode on October 25.

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. When the main computer failed to receive a signal from the payload computer on June 13, it automatically placed Hubble’s science instruments into safe mode, making it blind in space.


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