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Hubble Telescope Camera Shuts Down

Hubble Telescope Camera Malfunctions, with two of its three main functions likely never to be restored.

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February 1, 2007 – The main camera on the Hubble Telescope has shut down due to electronic malfunctions, NASA reported this week. The Hubble camera, which has been credited with some of the best images from the most outer reaches of space, will likely have only one-third of its functions restored, according to a Jan. 30 BBC News article.

The Hubble Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys stopped functioning when its power source failed on Jan. 27. The Hubble then went into "safemode." The ACS had already been running on a secondary power source, the Side B electronics package, since June 2006 when the primary power source malfunctioned, according to a Jan. 29 NASA press release.

The next day, NASA was able to reactivate some of the Hubble’s camera system with the Side A primary power, with plans to resume using the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, the Near Infrared Camera Multi-Object Spectrograph, and the Fine Guidance Sensors this week.

On Monday, NASA selected an Anomaly Review Board to investigate the problems with the Hubble’s camera and make recommendations. Their findings will be published on March 2.

Installed in the Hubble in 2002, the five-year-old ACS is made up of three electronic cameras, filters, and dispersers that detect ultraviolet to near infrared light. Two of the three camera instrument channels, the wide-field and high-resolution channels, are likely never to be restored, according to NASA officials. NASA hopes that the third Solid Blind channel will be ready for next month’s New Horizon mission to observe Jupiter, according to the BBC.

NASA is planning a Hubble servicing mission that is scheduled for September 2008. A backup non-ACS instrument, selected by Baltimore's Space Telescope Institute, will be installed to make observations.

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"It is too early to know what influences the ACS anomaly may have on the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission-4 planning," said Hubble associate director and program manager Preston Burch in the NASA release.

"It is important that the review board conduct a thorough investigation that will allow us to determine if there are any changes needed in the new instruments that will be installed on the upcoming servicing mission so that we can be sure of maximizing the telescope’s scientific output," said Burch.

A new follow-up telescope to the Hubble, the James Webb Telescope, is still in the development stage, set for completion around 2012.

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