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Hubble Space Telescope hits a milestone in its 31-year operation

The Hubble Space Telescope has passed a remarkable milestone, as it has now been operating for more than one billion seconds. The telescope was deployed from Space Shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990, and has been in operation for more than 31 years since then.

“On January 1, 2022, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope officially passed the one-billion second mark,” NASA wrote in a recent update. “Hubble’s first one-billion seconds included five astronaut servicing missions to replace and repair components of the telescope, and more than 1.5 million scientific observations and counting! We can only imagine what discoveries the next one-billion seconds will bring as new telescopes like the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope and the future Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope build upon Hubble’s discoveries and work together with Hubble to expand our understanding of the universe.”

The Hubble Space Telescope.
The Hubble Space Telescope. NASA

Hubble has had some troubles recently, as it had to cease science operations twice in 2021 to deal with glitches. The first was an issue with its computer hardware which was fixed by switching to backup hardware — fortunately, Hubble carries backups of almost all its hardware so these can be used if anything goes wrong with the primary systems. The second issue involved a synchronization problem between the science instruments and the computer which caused the telescope to go into safe mode. The Hubble team was able to turn the instruments back on one at a time and have not seen any similar problems since.

Hubble has made vital scientific observations over its tenure and continues to produce beautiful images and important data. However, it is also aging hardware and it will not last forever. The recent launch of the James Webb Space Telescope marks the beginning of a new era, with this observatory acting as the successor to Hubble. But James Webb operates primarily in the infrared wavelength, unlike Hubble which operates primarily in the visual light wavelength.

So for now at least, Hubble will continue working to collect stunning images of space for both research purposes and the pleasure of the public.

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