Last month the Hubble space telescope hit a glitch that powered down the long-lived scientific instrument. Objects in space stop working all the time, but this issue became remarkable because it took ages for NASA to get it fixed. But the folks at the American space agency are nothing if not resourceful and the telescope, launched into space in 1990, is taking photographs of the the stars again.
Hubble no longer in trouble
Above you can see a couple of the unusual sights Hubble has seen since it was powered back up last week. On the left is ARP-MADORE2115-273 (cool name), which is a pair of intersecting galaxies seen over the Southern Hemisphere. On the right, ARP-MADORE0002-503, a spiral galaxy unusual in that it’s got a third rotating spiral arm. Most only feature two.
Hubble hasn’t just taken two photographs since it was reactivated, of course. It’s also taken a look at some globular star clusters and the aurora on Jupiter since Saturday. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the minds at NASA pulling together to get the telescope switched over to a set of backup hardware — which is risky business.
“The switch required 15 hours of spacecraft commanding from the ground. The main computer had to be turned off, and a backup safe mode computer temporarily took over the spacecraft. Several boxes also had to be powered on that were never turned on before in space, and other hardware needed their interfaces switched,” said Jim Jeletic, Hubble deputy project manager at Goddard. “There was no reason to believe that all of this wouldn’t work, but it’s the team’s job to be nervous and think of everything that could go wrong and how we might compensate for it. The team meticulously planned and tested every small step on the ground to make sure they got it right.”