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Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope is working again after a month, photographs colliding galaxies

The Hubble Space Telescope can be seen as it is suspended in space by Discovery's Remote Manipulator System (RMS) following the deployment of part of its solar panels and antennae.  The Hubble Space Telescope can be seen as it is suspended in space by Discovery's Remote Manipulator System (RMS) following the deployment of part of its solar panels and antennae. 
The Hubble Space Telescope can be seen as it is suspended in space by Discovery's Remote Manipulator System (RMS) following the deployment of part of its solar panels and antennae.  (AP)

Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope had not been working for a month, it’s back up and had taken a picture of colliding galaxies.

After ‘mysteriously’ malfunctioning for a month, Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope is back online and has clicked some photos to show it. The observatory that orbits the Earth went offline on June 13 and remained offline for more than a month. Engineers have been struggling to figure out what went wrong in the meanwhile and have been trying to identify the ‘mysterious glitch’ that took the telescope offline. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has still not announced what lead to the Hubble going offline, however, the engineers managed to bring it back online by activating some of its backup hardware on Thursday last week.

Nasa’s Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said in an interview with Nzinga Tull, who led the Hubble team through the troubleshooting process, “We all knew this was riskier than we normally do.” But clearly, things are ok now, the telescope managed to slowly power up its science instruments over the weekend and conduct system check-outs to ensure everything was working properly. And then it took a bunch of images after being dysfunctional for a month.

The Hubble Space Telescope took a few pictures of a set of unusual galaxies on Saturday and one of the images shows a pair of galaxies slowly colliding. Another image shows a spiral galaxy with its long, extended arms, three of them, to be exact. The telescope has also been observing Jupiter’s northern and southern lights (auroras) as well as other tight clusters of stars. However, Nasa has not share any images of those yet. 

These images, from a program led by Julianne Dalcanton of the University of Washington in Seattle, demonstrate Hubble's return to full science operations. [Left] ARP-MADORE2115-273 is a rarely observed example of a pair of interacting galaxies in the southern hemisphere. [Right] ARP-MADORE0002-503 is a large spiral galaxy with unusual, extended spiral arms. While most disk galaxies have an even number of spiral arms, this one has three.
These images, from a program led by Julianne Dalcanton of the University of Washington in Seattle, demonstrate Hubble's return to full science operations. [Left] ARP-MADORE2115-273 is a rarely observed example of a pair of interacting galaxies in the southern hemisphere. [Right] ARP-MADORE0002-503 is a large spiral galaxy with unusual, extended spiral arms. While most disk galaxies have an even number of spiral arms, this one has three. (NASA, ESA, STScI, Julianne Dalcanton (UW) Image processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI))

"I'm thrilled to see that Hubble has its eye back on the universe, once again capturing the kind of images that have intrigued and inspired us for decades. This is a moment to celebrate the success of a team truly dedicated to the mission. Through their efforts, Hubble will continue its 32nd year of discovery, and we will continue to learn from the observatory's transformational vision,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a press release.

Built in the 1980s, the Hubble Space Telescope has an illustrious history of observing and photographing the solar system for decades now. The telescope’s computer payload suddenly stopped working on June 13 this year. Engineers struggled to bring it back online several times and after running multiple diagnostic tests, they realised that the problem was not in the computer but in some other hardware on the spacecraft, and that was causing the shutdown.

How did Nasa fix the Hubble Space Telescope?

Nasa has not shared exactly which piece of hardware on the observatory was the issue. According to reports, engineers suspect that a failsafe on the Hubble’s PCU (power control unit) instructed the payload computer to shut down. The PCU could have been sending the wrong voltage of electricity to the computer or the failsafe itself might have been malfunctioning. However, Nasa has always been prepared for issues like these. Each piece of hardware on the Hubble has a twin pre-installed just in case it fails. So essentially what the engineers did to get the Hubble back online was to switch all the faulty parts to the backup hardware.

Nasa might have been able to fix the issue for now, but this is a sign that Hubble’s age is starting to show. The telescope has not been upgraded since 2009 and some of its hardware is more than 30 years old. "This is an older machine, and it's kind of telling us: Look, I'm getting a little bit old here, right? It's talking to us," Zurbuchen said.

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