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Thursday, December 2, 2021

NASA tries again to save Hubble

Jeletic and his team also tried to predict potential accidents. For example, they found that the thin wires on which the Hubble gyroscope relied gradually corroded and fractured, and that three of its six gyroscopes failed. Without a gyroscope, Hubble would not be able to target anything correctly. But in the last maintenance mission, the astronauts replaced the gyroscope and strengthened the wire so that it would not corrode, thus solving the problem.

However, every new malfunction inevitably raises concerns about aging telescopes, which have played an important role in many astronomical achievements, including determining the age of the universe and discovering the smaller satellites of Pluto. “I think this is totally transformative,” said Adam Reese, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics because he showed how the measurement of exploding stars or supernovae reveals the accelerated expansion of the universe. This project benefited from Hubble data. Riess said that to this day, the number of oversubscriptions for the telescope has increased by at least five times, which means that the number of proposals made by astronomers to use the Hubble telescope is more than five times the time available for the telescope.

Space telescopes have also served as an educational tool, stimulating an entire generation of people’s interest in space science. “Everyone knows Hubble,” said Jeyhan Kartaltepe, an astronomer at Rochester Institute of Technology, who used Hubble images extensively in his work on multiple galaxy surveys. “It has become a household name. People like to read articles about Hubble’s discoveries and look at pictures. I think people have a direct connection between Hubble and astronomy.”

Hubble’s latest hardware challenge is a month earlier than its successor James Webb Space Telescope, Plans to launch into orbit. Like its iconic predecessor, the new telescope will collect a large number of spectacular images, although it is designed to detect more wavelengths in the infrared range, allowing it to penetrate the dusty parts of galaxies and star nebulae. Riess expects it to be welcomed by astronomers and the public alike.

Hubble can easily exceed its life expectancy, as is NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, It was launched in 1999 and is still in operation, although its design life is only five years. This bodes well for Weber, who also planned a five-year lifespan. However, unlike Hubble, it will orbit farther, making it inaccessible to astronauts. This means that any problems that arise must be resolved remotely.

But Hubble helped lay the foundation for its successor. For example, after Hubble’s launch, engineers realized that its mirror was not properly bent, which initially caused the image to be blurred. If such an error occurs, Webb’s design allows engineers to adjust the curvature remotely.

Astronomers appreciate the hard work of Hubble’s engineers and operators. “They are committed to saving the telescope from all the anger and emotional changes, which is great. I am proud of them for supporting the scientists who use this data,” said Julianne Dalcanton, an astronomer at the University of Washington. ) Said that she has used the Hubble Telescope a lot throughout her career, including mapping our galactic neighbor Andromeda. She, Kartaltepe, and other astronomers look forward to the time when Hubble and Webb will both observe together in the sky, especially because they will learn different things from the telescope’s respective instruments and wavelength coverage.

Although Jeletic and his team don’t know when Hubble will be back online, he hopes that all systems will eventually be up and running again. “One day, Hubble will die like other spacecraft,” he said. “But I hope this still has a long way to go.”

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