The Hubble Space Telescope is broken

Image    Hubble's image of the Pillars of Creation is among the most famous ever taken

Image Hubble's image of the Pillars of Creation is among the most famous ever taken

The Hubble Space Telescope is now operating in safe mode, with all science operations suspended, after one of the three gyroscopes used to aim the telescope failed on Friday 5 October. The 28-year-old Hubble Telescope has been key to NASA and independent research of space.

Hubble could potentially function with just two or even a single active gyroscope, so the latest failure shouldn't be the end of the road for the telescope. NASA said that, while this option offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on Hubble's overall scientific capabilities. After rumors of mission downtime began circulating on Twitter, Dr. Rachel Osten of the Hubble team confirmed that something is wrong with the telescope's gyroscopes, which it uses for orientation.

Osten described the current situation as "not really scary". The gyro lasted about six months longer than we thought it would (almost pulled the plug on it back in the spring). "We'll work through the issues and be back", Osten added in another tweet.

But don't panic: while the telescope needs three gyroscopes for "optimal efficiency", it can operate with less, Space.com reported. The safe mode is meant to keep the telescope "precisely pointed" for a long duration, the space agency explains, stating that experts are working on fixing the problem.

Hubble has made numerous outstanding observations of the cosmos since it was deployed in 1990.

The Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990 and has facilitated many great discoveries, was built with a total of six gyroscopes.

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The telescope could work with as few as one or two gyroscopes, although that leaves little room for additional breakdowns.

The Hubble Space Telescope will remain in safe mode while engineers in ground control perform tests and try to figure out how to get the malfunctioning gyro up and running again. An Anomaly Review Board, including experts from the Hubble team and industry familiar with the design and performance of this type of gyro, is being formed to investigate this issue and develop the recovery plan.

If the outcome indicates that the gyro is not usable, Hubble will resume science operations in an already defined "reduced-gyro" mode that uses only one gyro.

Only two of those enhanced gyros are now running.

The Register first noticed a questionmark over Hubble's health during the weekend, when Michigan State University astronomer Jay Strader tweeted rumours that it was in safe mode "following a gyro failure".

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