Hubble’s Glitchy Camera Is Back In Action, Will Soon Begin Observing The Sky Again

UPDATE: “The Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 was brought back to full operational status and completed its first science observations just after noon EST today, January 17,” NASA just announced.

Last week, the Inquisitr reported that the Hubble Space Telescope had suffered another technical malfunction which resulted in the shutdown of the spacecraft’s main imaging instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WF3).

The trouble with Hubble’s faulty camera has now cleared up, NASA announced on January 15, noting that the WF3 should start collecting science images again in a few days.

The WF3 camera was out of commission for an entire week after it autonomously suspended operations on January 8. The imager turned itself off as a safety precaution after its software “detected that some voltage levels within the instrument were out of the predefined range.”

Following an investigation, a team of Hubble engineers discovered a series of errors in the telemetry data associated with those particular circuits and established that the glitch “was a telemetry issue, and not a power supply issue.”

While the cause of the problem is yet to be determined, the camera glitch had an easy fix: the tried-and-true solution of switching it off and on again to restart the telemetry circuits and the associated boards. The reboot has brought the camera back online; however, it will take a few days for the team to know whether the operation was successful and the camera is working as it should.

“All values were normal. Additional calibration and tests will be run over the next 48 to 72 hours to ensure that the instrument is operating properly.”

With the WF3 now up and running, it won’t be long before the camera begins observing the sky once again.

“Assuming that all tests work as planned, it is expected that the Wide Field Camera 3 will start to collect science images again by the end of the week,” NASA officials said on Tuesday.

The WF3 camera was installed on board the Hubble Space Telescope during the spacecraft’s last servicing mission, which took place in May of 2009. Although the WF3 is Hubble’s main eye on the universe — its data has produced more than 2,000 peer-reviewed published papers in the nearly 10 years it has been operational — the space telescope is equipped with three other cameras: the Advanced Camera for Surveys, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (also installed in 2009). All of these imagers are performing nominally, said NASA.

The Hubble telescope itself has been doing science for more than 28 years — almost double its original lifespan. The spacecraft is expected to remain active for at least another five years, pushing its lifetime to 35 years, reports CNET. The media outlet cites Hubble mission head Thomas Brown of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, who recently told Space that the space telescope would hang on at least until 2025.

“Right now, all of the subsystems and the instruments have a reliability exceeding 80 percent through 2025.”