After taking a short break from observing the cosmos, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is officially back up and running, and the observatory is captured by a stunning new view of a distant, galaxy star-forming.
On Oct. 5, the Hubble Telescope went into a protective "safe mode" when one of its orientation-maintaining gyroscopes failed. After about three weeks, the mission team was able to fix thealky gyro and get Hubble back online. Shortly thereafter, the telescope is homed in a field of star-forming galaxies located approximately 11 billion light-years away from Earth, in the Pegasus constellation.
The new image, taken on Oct. 27 using the telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, after being returned to service, according to a statement from NASA. However, getting Hubble back online was no easy feat; it involved an entire team of engineers and experts who worked wirelessly to find a fix, said said in the statement. [The Hubble Space Telescope’s Greatest Discoveries]
"This has been an incredible saga, built on the heroic efforts of the Hubble team," Jennifer Wiseman, Hubble senior project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in the statement. "Thanks to this work, the Hubble Space Telescope is a back to full science capability that will benefit astronomical community and the public for years to come."
Once the members of the Hubble's operations team were tried, they were tried to revive the failed gyro, but were unsuccessful.
Instead, the team was able to activate a backup of the gyro on the spacecraft. However, the rate of 450 degrees per hour, which was actually turning out to be less than 1 degree per hour. The team has never seen rates that high on any other gyros, according to the statement.
The Hubble Telescope has a total of six gyros, but it's generally about time to collect data about the telescope's orientation. Because of this, the final backup gyro was failed. That meant the operations team had to figure out how to get a "one-gyro mode," which would greatly limit Hubble's observations.
In 2011, Hubble's control center switched to automated operations, meaning people longer monitored the telescope 24 hours a day. However, during Hubble's brief offline, the team members continuously tracked the telescope's health and safety.
"The team pulled together to staff around the clock, something we haven't done in years," Dave Haskins, Hubble's mission operations manager at Goddard, said in the statement. "To me, it was seamless. It shows the versatility of the team."
NASA also brought an additional team of experts to figure out how to correct the backup Gyro's unusual behavior. After weeks of creative thinking, continuous tests and minor setbacks, the team concluded that there might be some sort of blockage. They attempted to resolve this issue by switching between the different operational modes and rotating the spacecraft. As a result, the gyro gradually changes its rotation to more normal rates, according to the statement.
Following that success, the team uploaded new software to the telescope and performed a series of practice maneuvers to simulate real science observations. This is ensured that the telescope is ready for action, with three working gyros.
Meanwhile, other team members have turned their focus on preparing Hubble to use only one gyro. Even though those preparations are not needed right now, NASA officials said that the telescope will be inevitably be switched to one of the gyro modes at some point, and now the teams will be ready for that.
"Many teams have made personal sacrifices to work long shifts and off-shifts to ensure the health and safety of the observatory, while identifying paths that are both safe and effective," Pat Crouse, Hubble's project manager, said in the statement.
"The recovery of the gyro is not only vital for the life expectancy of the observatory, but Hubble is the most productive in three-gyro mode, and extending this historic productivity period is a main objective for the mission," he said. "Hubble will continue to make amazing discoveries when it is time to operate in one gyro mode, but the effort and determination of the mission team, now is not the time."