Trouble for Hubble? Here’s why the space telescope is wobbly
Many of you are very familiar with the many screensaver images from space.
Not too many of you know that for the past 28 years a good portion of these great images have come to us from a bus-sized spacecraft orbiting Earth — the Hubble Space Telescope.
The Hubble Space Telescope was released in space from the payload bay of the space shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990, some 332 nautical miles above Earth.
This amazing machine with a large light-collecting mirror of some 94.8 inches is one of the most effective platforms to peer deep into the depth of the unknown and known universe.
The Hubble has not been without its own unique problems, with early-detected optical issues with the focusing capability of the factory design.
It took a number of spacewalks to help correct the myopic eye of this mechanical giant.
The HST, as it is known, races around the Earth every 97 minutes or so and can be seen on a regular basis by Arizona sky watchers, if you know when and where to look.
Click here to locate the HST from your location.
With the HST having many systems in place to keep it going, we now find out that it was placed into “safe mode,” as a number of the vital gyroscopes on board have failed or are failing.
In 2009, a repair mission was sent to the HST via the shuttle Atlantis to replace the six main gyroscopes that maintain the spacecraft.
The HST normally uses three of the six gyroscopes to maintain a locked-on image of an object it is studying.
Since then, two more of these important gyros have failed, sending the HST into safe mode.
In principal, the HST can operate with only one gyroscope, but that is not a great option at all.
The HST is not pointed within 50 degrees of the sun, so as to prevent damage to the mirror system and the electronics.
So, for now, engineers and scientists are working on some clever software models to get the HST back online.
The HST has done some amazing science and given us some outstanding images of the universe.
See for yourself here.
If you are really interested in a larger and more powerful space telescope, get set for the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope, a massive spacecraft with a 21-foot-diameter mirror set to launch on March 21, 2021.
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