Skip to main content

Hubble Space Telescope is back up and running following gyro problem

The Hubble Space Telescope is back to full operations after spending several weeks in safe mode due to a problem with one of its components. The telescope first experienced issues with one of its gyros on November 19, and was in and out of safe mode several times in the following days. It has remained in safe mode since November 23, but came back online on Friday, December 8.

The problem was caused by one of the telescope’s three operational gyros, which are devices that help to point the telescope in the right direction. Although it would have been possible to operate the telescope with just one of these, that would have resulted in lost observing time as it would take longer to move the telescope to a new target between observations. With all three gyros now back in use, the telescope has returned to science operations.

Hubble orbiting more than 300 miles above Earth as seen from the space shuttle.
Hubble orbits more than 300 miles above Earth as seen from the space shuttle. NASA

Currently two of the telescope’s instruments are online, with the other instruments set to be brought back online within the next few weeks. “Hubble’s two main cameras, Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys, resumed science observations Friday,” NASA wrote in an update. “The team is planning to restore operations to the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph later this month.”

Although Hubble has been somewhat overshadowed in recent years by the newer and more powerful James Webb Space Telescope, it is important for astronomers to have access to both telescopes, as they operate in different wavelengths. Hubble looks primarily in the visible light wavelength, equivalent to what is seen by the human eye, with some sensitivity to ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths as well. That allows it to capture stunning images of cosmic objects such as nebulae or nearby galaxies.

James Webb, on the other hand, operates primarily in the infrared portion of the spectrum, with instruments operating in both near-infrared and mid-infrared wavelengths. That is what allows it to see extremely distant galaxies, which are moving away from us, so their light is shifted out of the visible portion of the spectrum and into the infrared. These very distant and therefore very old galaxies would be difficult or impossible to observe with Hubble as the light from them would be beyond the wavelengths that Hubble can see.

You can get an idea of the different features and types of images collected by Webb and Hubble by looking at comparisons of the same object viewed by each .The two telescopes also work together to create more detailed pictures of the universe around us.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Hubble captures an exceptionally luminous supernova site
This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image is of the small galaxy known as UGC 5189A.

This week's image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the aftermath of an epic explosion in space caused by the death of a massive star.

Some of the most dramatic events in the cosmos are supernovas, when a massive star runs out of fuel to fuse -- first running out of hydrogen, then helium, then burning through heavier elements -- and eventually can no longer sustain the outward pressure from heat caused by this fusion. When that happens, the star collapses suddenly into a dense core, and its outer layers are thrown off in a tremendous explosion called a Type II supernova.

Read more
Hubble images a pair of galaxies caught in the process of merging
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features Arp 122, a peculiar galaxy that in fact comprises two galaxies – NGC 6040, the tilted, warped spiral galaxy and LEDA 59642, the round, face-on spiral – that are in the midst of a collision.

After last week's image of the week from the Hubble Space Telescope showed a cluster of galaxies that appeared to be very close to each other but actually weren't, this week's image shows two images that are practically on top of each other. The two galaxies shown in the image below, NGC 6040 and LEDA 59642, are so close that they are interacting and have a shared name as a pair, Arp 122.

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features Arp 122, a peculiar galaxy that in fact comprises two galaxies – NGC 6040, the tilted, warped spiral galaxy and LEDA 59642, the round, face-on spiral – that are in the midst of a collision. ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Dalcanton, Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA Acknowledgement: L. Shatz

Read more
Hubble captures a busy frame of four overlapping spiral galaxies
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features a richness of spiral galaxies.

This week's image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a host of galaxies overlapping in a complex swirl. Four main galaxies are shown in the image, three of which look like they are practically on top of each other, but all is not as it appears in this case.

The largest galaxy in the image, located on the right, is NGC 1356, an elegant barred spiral galaxy similar to our Milky Way. It is also known as the Great Barred Spiral Galaxy due to the prominent nature of its bar, which is a bright structure at the center of the galaxy which is rich with stars. Near this galaxy appear two smaller spiral galaxies, LEDA 467699 and LEDA 95415, and off on the left side of the image is IC 1947.

Read more