Gyro glitch hits Chandra X-ray telescope

Chandra X-Ray Observatory
An artist’s conception shows the Chandra X-ray Observatory. (NASA / CXC / SAO Illustration)

Even as experts worked on ways to get the Hubble Space Telescope back doing science, another one of NASA’s Great Observatories in space — the Chandra X-ray Observatory — went into safe mode as well.

NASA said the 19-year-old X-ray telescope put itself into hibernation on Oct. 10, possibly due to an issue with its gyroscopic pointing system. A gyro failure was behind the 28-year-old Hubble’s transition to safe mode last week.

Due to the glitch, Chandra swapped critical hardware operations to backup units and pointed its solar panels to soak up the maximum amount of sunlight, while pointing its mirrors away from the sun to minimize the risk of damage.

“All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe,” NASA said in a status update issued Oct. 12.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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