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Hubble Space Telescope's main camera stops working

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hubble 01.jpg

The Hubble Space Telescope's (HST) main camera has ceased to function.

The telescope revolutionized astronomy with its stunning pictures of the universe. It has three separate electronic cameras and a collection of filters and light dispersers that are used to photograph distant celestial objects. The third-generation instrument installed by a space shuttle crew in 2002 went off line Monday. Engineers are still working to rectify the situation, but have not yet identified the source of the problem. The other two cameras are being used while repair efforts on the main camera continue.

"It's still off line today," said Max Mutchler, an instruments specialist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

The cause of the main camera's malfunction may be a faulty transistor or a disruption to the camera's memory. "Both possibilities are things that can be resolved here on the ground," said Ed Campion, a NASA spokesman at the Goddard Space Flight Center outside Washington, D.C. He also told the Associated Press Saturday that "he was hopeful the problem on the space-based telescope could be fixed from the ground."

A solution could come as early as June 30.

NASA scientists say the studies being carried out with the Hubble will not be harmed, just the order reshuffled.

Hubble, launched in April 1990, is beginning to show its age. It needs new batteries and gyroscopes if it is to keep working beyond next year.

Early last year it was announced that Hubble would be cut from NASA's 2006 fiscal year budget. However, there have been questions about the future of Hubble, with the famous space telescope in need of service and power if it is to continue to be active in 2007.

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.