Hubble team works to revive camera amid shutdown

Hubble Space Telescope
NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel, perched on the end of the shuttle Atlantis’ robotic arm, helps to install the Wide Field Camera 3 during 2009 spacewalk to perform work on the Hubble Space Telescope. (NASA Photo)

Engineers are working to bring the Hubble Space Telescope’s wide-angle camera back into operation after a hardware problem knocked it offline.

In a status update, NASA said the problem cropped up on Jan. 8 and forced a suspension of operations for the Wide Field Camera 3.

WFC3 was installed on the telescope nearly a decade ago during the space shuttle fleet’s final servicing mission. It’s designed to capture high-resolution images in visible, ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths.

“Hubble will continue to perform science observations with its other three active instruments, while the Wide Field Camera 3 anomaly is investigated,” NASA said. Those instruments include the Advanced Camera for Surveys, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.

NASA said that WFC3 is “equipped with redundant electronics should they be needed to recover the instrument.”

Operations at NASA have been reduced agency-wide due to a partial government shutdown that’s lasted 19 days so far. However, Christine Pulliam, news director for the Baltimore-based Space Telescope Science Institute, said the shutdown “is not affecting the response to the anomaly.”

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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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