Hubble space telescope goes into 'safe mode' over faulty gyroscope

The Hubble Space Telescope - responsible for capturing some of the most powerful images of deep space - is in safe mode following a series of component failures. The Hubble Space Telescope has been sidelined by a pointing system failure.

Gyroscopes are needed to keep Hubble pointed in the right direction during observations. Scientists are acutely aware of that today after placing the orbiting observatory into safe mode following the failure of another gyroscope.

To operate optimally, Hubble needs three operational gyroscopes.

The Hubble, behind iconic images such as Pillars of Creation (below) has watched the skies for 28 years, having launched in 1990.

'First step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic'. After rumors of mission downtime began circulating on Twitter, Dr. Rachel Osten of the Hubble team confirmed that something is wrong with the telescope's gyroscopes, which it uses for orientation.

The troublesome gyroscope leaves two functioning ones, Space.com reports.

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While the telescope is not expected to be at risk of being permanently out of order, two of the four gyroscopes used to direct the telescope towards its targets in the sky have failed.

"Not really scary, we knew it was coming", she added. "We'll work through the issues and be back", she wrote. The spacecraft has a half dozen gyroscopes built in, and they were recently replaced during a servicing mission back in 2009. The team is now working to bring another gyro online, but Hubble may be limited in what it can do going forward.

Osten said, 'The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. "Which the Astro community wants desperately".

A Hubble image of NGC 6744, which has a prominent central region packed with old yellow stars.

The Hubble Space Telescope is in an uncomfortable predicament.

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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