NASA Tries to Save Hubble, Again
Jeletic and his team are also trying to anticipate potential disasters. For example, they found that the thin wires Hubble’s gyroscopes relied on gradually decaying and breaking, and three of its six gyro failed. Without gyros, Hubble can’t target anything right. But on the last service mission, the astronauts replaced the gyros and improved the wires so they wouldn’t be damaged, solving the problem.
However, each new hitch inevitably raises concerns about the aging telescope, which has been instrumental in many astronomical achievements, including lowering the age of the universe and discovering the small moons of Pluto. “I think it’s a complete change,” said Adam Riess, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for demonstrating how measuring exploding stars, or supernovae, reveals the rapidly expanding universe, a project that has benefited from Hubble data. To date, the telescope has continued to oversubscribe at least five times, according to Riess, meaning astronomers have more than five times more suggestions for using Hubble because there is available time on the telescope.
The space telescope also serves as an educational tool and arouses public interest in space science of an entire generation. “Everyone knows Hubble,” said Jeyhan Kartaltepe, an astronomer at the Rochester Institute of Technology, whose work on numerous galaxy surveys uses Hubble images. “It has become a household name. People enjoyed reading articles about Hubble’s discovery, and they enjoyed looking at the images. I think people have an immediate Hubble association with astronomy.
Hubble’s latest hardware challenges come a month before its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is scheduled to launch into orbit. Like the iconic it followed, the new telescope will collect troves of unique images, even if it is designed to detect wavelengths of infrared range, allowing it to penetrate the dusty parts of galaxies and stellar nebulae. Riess hopes it will also be popular with astronomers and the public.
Hubble quickly exceeded its life expectancy, and so did NASA. Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was launched in 1999 and remains operational, although it was designed to last only five years. This is a good sign for Webb, both planned for a five -year life. Unlike Hubble, however, it will orbit much farther, making it inaccessible to astronauts. That means any problems that arise need to be fixed remotely.
But Hubble helped set the stage for its successor. For example, after the launch of Hubble, engineers realized that its mirror was not curved correctly, which initially resulted in blurred images. Webb’s design allows engineers to adjust the curvature at a distance if there is an error like that.
Astronomers appreciate the diligence of Hubble’s engineers and operators. “Their dedication to continuing to save the telescope from all the pique fits and mood swings is remarkable. I am very proud that they support the scientists who use the data,” said Julianne Dalcanton, an astronomer. at the University of Washington who has regularly used Hubble in his career, including mapping Andromeda, our galaxy neighbor.He, Kartaltepe, and other astronomers look forward to a time when Hubble and Webb are in the sky, which accompanied by observations, especially as they learn different objects from individual telescope instruments and wavelength range.
While Jeletic and his team don’t yet know when Hubble will return online, he hopes all systems will finally be up and running once again. “Someday Hubble will die, like other spacecraft,” he said. “But hopefully that’s a long way off.”
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