After a month of inactivity and doubts about its future, Hubble is finally fixed and returns with new photos.
What a relief ! After more than a month spent in an artificial coma following a material failure, the famous Hubble space telescope was finally able to return to work on July 16. To mark the occasion, he split some beautiful pictures, including these of a couple of interacting galaxies.
Hubble’s back! 🎉
After the Hubble team successfully turned on backup hardware aboard the telescope, the observatory got back to work over the weekend and took these galaxy snapshots.
— Hubble (@NASAHubble) July 19, 2021
He had been on borrowed time since June 13, when one of the craft’s onboard computers suddenly stopped working. The engineers therefore no longer had access to any of the instruments, although they remained perfectly functional. At first, NASA tried on numerous occasions to restart it, without success.
The perilous maintenance of a very old system
So they tried to identify the component that had flanked. As expected, this was the Power Control Unit (PCU), a device that acts a bit like a fuse. According to SciencePost, if the voltage goes out of a certain permissible range, a secondary circuit immediately puts the whole system on standby to protect it. According to the engineering team, the Hubble failure could have been caused by an abnormal voltage. The secondary circuit could also have been stuck in protection mode, thus stopping all the instruments.
Fortunately, as with much of the material we ship into space, Hubble is equipped to deal with this situation… at least in theory. Because if he does have a second backup computer, identical in every way to the first with its own PCU, using it has turned out to be anything but trivial. The engineers had to proceed with extreme thoroughness, not to rush this technology designed at the end of the 70s and launched in 1990. But thanks to their expertise, the operation went well and Hubble is functional again.
Hubble leaves for ten years
He therefore benefits from a new reprieve, which could bring him until the horizon 2030. He will then celebrate his fortieth year of service, a canonical age for a scientific instrument. But before giving way to its successor, the James Webb telescope, Hubble will still be able to provide us with some services. Until his retirement, Hubble will still inherit several observation missions.
NASA wishes in particular to make it observe galaxies that it considers “bizarre”, which suggests some exciting new developments. It will also scan for globular clusters, which a study recently identified as the cause of stellar currents. Finally, he will take some pictures of the aurora of Jupiter, which will certainly give us some fantastic pictures.