After A Month Of Downtime, NASA Just Fixed Hubble’s Most Important Camera

One month after some of Hubble’s science instruments started malfunctioning, NASA finally recovered its Wide Field Camera 3 — arguably one of Hubble’s most important cameras for mapping the universe. Out of all the telescopes and other observatory tools we have at our disposal, Hubble continues to be one of the best out there. It’s captured thousands of gorgeous photos, helped determine the universe’s age, and has generally given humans a better understanding of space than we had before Hubble launched 31 years ago.

Unfortunately, 2021 has been pretty rough on the telescope. Between June and July, Hubble was inactive for a month due to an issue with its payload computer. Following that issue, NASA encountered another problem on October 23 when Hubble stopped responding to its commands/data requests. The Hubble team on Earth has been slowly bringing the telescope back online since then, but it’s proven to be a long process with no clear end date in sight.

Related: The Hubble Telescope Is Broken Again — Here’s How NASA’s Fixing It

Thankfully, NASA just took a substantial step forward in bringing Hubble back to normal operations. On November 22, NASA confirmed that it had fully recovered Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 — the second recovered instrument following the Advanced Camera for Surveys. This comes about a month after NASA suspended Hubble observations on October 25. With the Wide Field Camera 3 back online and ready for duty, it’s scheduled to make its first observation on November 23.

While NASA needs to recover all of Hubble’s instruments, Wide Field Camera 3 is particularly important. This single camera accounts for over a third of all Hubble’s observations. The telescope isn’t the same without it, so the fact that Wide Field Camera 3 is finally ready for action again is a tremendous step forward.

However, that’s not to say NASA’s work is done. Hubble engineers are now in the process of changing instrument parameters so they can “handle several missed synchronization messages while continuing to operate normally if they occur in the future.” These changes will first be applied to Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, with NASA estimating this process to take “several weeks.” If the changes are applied to the Spectrograph without any issue, NASA will further implement them to Hubble’s other instruments.

It’s unclear when these fixes will be fully rolled out and completed, but it’s safe to say NASA’s making good progress. Rushing repairs and accidentally causing further trouble is the last thing Hubble needs. Taking extra time might sound like a drag, but it’s essential to ensure Hubble is in the best condition possible.

Next: New Hubble Photo Shows A Baby Star Covered In Beautiful Blue Gas

Source: NASA

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