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NASA gets the Hubble Space Telescope back online and fully operational

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Lead image credit: NASA

After more than a month in safe mode, NASA has announced that the Hubble Space Telescope has returned to full science operations.

We reported on November 8 that Hubble was in safe mode following its second shutdown of the year. The famous telescope entered safe mode on October 25 after a loss of data synchronization was detected. The Hubble team instantly went to work trying to isolate the problem.

Hubble’s return to form is excellent news. The orbiting telescope has given us some of the best, most stunning images of celestial bodies and phenomena. For a while, it seemed like Hubble may not come back online at all. And if it did, it may have needed to do so without using all four of its active scientific instruments. In hopes of preventing a reoccurrence of the issue, NASA says that the Hubble team will continue to work on developing and testing changes to instrument software that will allow the team to conduct scientific operations even if there are issues with message synchronization in the future. The first of these changes is scheduled to be installed on the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph in mid-December. The other instruments will receive similar updates later.

NASA writes, ‘Hubble has been operating now for over 31 years, collecting ground-breaking science observations that have changed our fundamental understanding of the universe. With the launch of the Webb Telescope planned for later this month, NASA expects the two observatories will work together well into this decade, expanding our knowledge of the cosmos even further.’

The James Webb Telescope is currently at the ESA launch facility in Kourou, French Guiana awaiting launch. The telescope is scheduled to launch on December 22 at 07:20 EST. The Webb Space Telescope will study every phase of cosmic history, including investigating the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe. ‘Webb will directly observe a part of space and time never seen before. Webb will gaze into the epoch when the very first stars and galaxies formed, over 13.5 billion years ago. Ultraviolet and visible light emitted by the very first luminous objects has been stretched or ‘redshifted’ by the universe’s continual expansion and arrives today as infrared light. Webb is designed to ‘see’ this infrared light with unprecedented resolution and sensitivity,’ NASA writes.

The James Webb Space Telescope will launch from French Guiana on December 22, 2022

The Webb Space Telescope has a primary mirror 6.5 meters (21.3′) across. Like Hubble, it includes four science instruments. The instruments are: Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec), Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) and Near-Infrared Imager with Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) with the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS). The instruments will observe over visible, near infrared and mid infrared wavelengths and the telescope will travel 1.5M km (1M mi) from Earth and will orbit the Sun around the second Lagrange point (L2).

Soon, the operational Hubble will have a sibling space telescope. With the two telescopes, we should be treated to fantastic photos and an ever-expanding understanding of the universe. To keep up to date with Hubble, follow the official Twitter account.


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