Chandra X-Ray Observatory Transitions To Safe Mode Days After Hubble Space Telescope Glitch

Image shows Chandra, most powerful X-ray telescope ever built.
NASA

A few days after NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope entered into a safe mode, the U.S. space agency announced that another of its space telescopes has also gone into a similar state.

The Inquisitr reported earlier this week that the Hubble has gone into safe mode because of a gyroscope failure. The telescope had been operating using four of its six gyroscopes, but one of them failed.

Controllers attempted to switch on a different gyroscope but that it was also malfunctioning, leaving the telescope with only two functional gyroscopes. Three of Hubble’s gyroscopes need to work for optimal efficiency.

Less than a week after the problem with Hubble surfaced, NASA announced on Friday that the Chandra X-ray observatory also has a similar problem.

The agency revealed that the observatory automatically went into safe mode on Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope failure.

“At approximately 9:55 a.m. EDT on Oct. 10, 2018, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode, in which the observatory is put into a safe configuration, critical hardware is swapped to back-up units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun,” NASA said in a statement.

The agency explained that transition to safe mode was normal for such an event. Instruments had to go into safe mode to protect themselves during software or hardware failure or glitches. When this happens, only the essential survival systems of the observatory are working.

The agency nonetheless assured that the scientific instruments are safe and all systems worked as expected. The agency is now conducting an investigation to find out what prompted the safe-mode transition.

NASA also said that it is a mere coincidence that both Hubble and Chandra went into safe mode within a week of one another.

The two observatories are part of NASA’s Great Observatories series. The others were the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which unfortunately failed and was eventually destroyed.

Chandra is specifically designed to detect X-ray emission from sources of high energy in the universe such as clusters of galaxies, exploded stars, and matter around black holes. In July, Chandra’s observations provided astronomers with the first known evidence of a young star devouring a planet.

At 19-years-old, the observatory is well beyond its original design lifetime of five years. NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years in 2001. The space agency remains optimistic the observatory will continue to carry out the forefront of science.