After a brief break from the observation of the universe, the Hubble Space Telescope is officially back and running, and the Observatory has captured a wonderful new look at a distant, star-forming galaxy.
On Oct. 5, Hubble's telescope got into a protective "safe mode" when one of his guiding gyroscopes failed. After about three weeks, the mission team was able to repair the gyroscope balloons and return Hubble back. Shortly thereafter, the telescope approached the field of star-forming galaxies located about 11 billion light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus.
The new shot, shot on October 27 with the Wide Field Camera 3 telescope, was the first shot to be captured by the telescope after it returned to operation, according to NASA. Though Hubble returned online, it was not an easy task; this included a team of engineers and experts who worked tirelessly to find a repair, officials said in a statement. [The Hubble Space Telescope’s Greatest Discoveries]
"It was an incredible saga based on Hubble's heroic effort," said Jennifer Wiseman, senior scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Thanks to this work, the Hubble Space Telescope is back to full scientific capability that will benefit the astronomical community and the public for years to come."
As soon as members of the Hubble Stellar Operations Team were warned that the telescope had ceased receiving scientific observations, they quickly tried to revive an unsuccessful gyro but unsuccessfully.
Instead, the team was able to activate the backup gyro on the spacecraft. This gyro, however, soon announced an incredibly high speed of 450 degrees an hour when Hubble actually turned less than 1 degree per hour. The team team has never seen levels that would be high according to other gyroscopes.
The Hubble Telescope has a total of six gyroscopes, but generally uses only three to collect binocular orientation data. Because two of the twelve telescope gyros have failed before, it was the last backup gyro. This meant that the operating team had to figure out how to do it, or resort to a possible "one gyro mode," which would significantly reduce Hubble's observation.
In 2011, the Hubble Control Center switched to automated operations, which means people are still watching the telescope 24 hours a day. However, during Hubble's short missiles, team members were constantly watching the health and safety of the telescope.
"The team has teamed together continuously, something we have not done for years," said Dave Haskins, manager of Hubble's Goddard Operations. "For me it was trouble-free, it shows the versatility of the team."
NASA also brought another team of experts to find out how to fix the unusual behavior of the backup gyro. After weeks of creative thinking, continuous tests and minor failures, he came to the conclusion that some blocking could occur. They have tried to solve this problem by switching the gyroscope between different operating modes and rotating the spacecraft. As a result, the gyro gradually changed its rotation to more-normal rates, according to the statement.
After this success, the team uploaded the new software into the telescope and made a series of practical maneuvers that simulated real scientific observations. This ensured that the telescope was ready for action, with three working gyroscopes.
Meanwhile, the other team members focused on Hubble's preparation to use only one gyro. Although these products are not needed, NASA officials have said that the telescope will be converted to one gyro mode at some point and teams will now be ready.
"Many team members have made personal sacrifices to work long shifts and shifts to ensure the health and safety of the Observatory while identifying the way forward that is safe and effective," Pat Crouse of the Hubble Project Manager said in his statement.
"The renewal of gyroscopy is not only important to the expected life expectancy of the observatory, but Hubble is the most productive in the three-gyrographic regime, and the extension of this historic period of productivity is the primary objective of the mission," he said. "Hubble will continue to make amazing discoveries when it's time to work in one gyro regime, but because of the enormous effort and determination of the team, now is not the time."