Tech trouble hobbles Hubble Space Telescope

NASA, we have a problem: one of the Hubble Space Telescope's gyroscopes - devices which are needed to keep the telescope in the right direction during observations - is not working. The failure over the weekend took the telescope down to just two.

Hubble is now down to two working gyroscopes and needs at least three for optimal operations but it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope. The team is now working on getting the misbehaving gyroscope to snap out of its funk, but if it can't manage to do that the spacecraft will be brought down to a one-gyroscope mode in order to preserve longevity.

The Hubble, behind iconic images such as Pillars of Creation (below) has watched the skies for 28 years, having launched in 1990. According to Deputy Hubble Mission Head Rachel Osten, the single-gyro mode is not much worse than two gyros.

Osten said the team knew the gyroscope issue was imminent, but she sounds confident about overcoming this latest obstacle to Hubble's continuing operation. NASA replaced all six of Hubble's gyroscopes in the final 2009 servicing mission.

But don't panic: while the telescope needs three gyroscopes for "optimal efficiency", it can operate with less, Space.com reported. "We'll work through the issues and be back", she wrote.

Even with one gyro working, Hubble will still be able to take part in science, NASA confirmed.

For now, Hubble's still the star of the show, so let's hope it can pull through. "Which the Astro community wants desperately".

Astronomers use the orbiting observatory to peer deep into the cosmos, revealing faraway solar systems as well as galaxies and black holes.

The James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, is scheduled to be launched in March 2021.

Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990 and helped publish more than 15,000 scientific papers.

Hubble's primary mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) across and in total is 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long - the length of a large school bus.

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