NASA is pulling out all the stops to fix the Hubble Space Telescope

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SlashGear 27 June, 2021 - 10:16am 52 views

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Even the Hubble Space Telescope's backup computer is glitching - raising questions about what's gone wrong

Business Insider South Africa 27 June, 2021 - 07:00pm

NASA has been trying to figure out what's wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope for nearly two weeks, but the mystery just deepened.

Hubble, which launched into orbit in 1990, is the world's most powerful space telescope. It has captured images of the births and deaths of stars, discovered new moons around Pluto, and tracked two interstellar objects as they zipped through our solar system. Hubble's observations have allowed astronomers to calculate the age and expansion of the universe and to peer at galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang.

But the Earth-orbiting observatory hasn't done any scientific work for 12 days. The telescope's payload computer - a 1980s machine that controls and monitors all the spacecraft's science instruments - suddenly stopped working on June 13.

NASA's Hubble team has been troubleshooting ever since. But the team figured that even if they couldn't fix the computer, they could always switch to Hubble's backup payload computer.

This week, though, NASA discovered that the backup computer was glitching, too. So now it's hunting for a new explanation for Hubble's mysterious problems.

NASA first tried - unsuccessfully - to restart the payload computer. Then the team turned its attention to memory module that has been degrading, since it was registering errors. The Hubble team thought that could be the root of the problem, but no luck there, either. Both the memory module and one of its three backups wouldn't work. That indicated the source of the issue was further upstream.

The team began running diagnostic tests on other parts of the payload computer this week. They also decided to power up the backup payload computer - which hasn't been turned on since astronauts installed it on the telescope in 2009. But the new computer showed the same errors, in the same hardware, as the original.

That indicates that the payload computer may not be the problem after all. It's probably another system, still further upstream.

"Since it is highly unlikely that all individual hardware elements have a problem, the team is now looking at other hardware as the possible culprit," NASA said in a blog update on Friday.

The Hubble team now thinks the culprit could be a module that helps send commands to the telescope's science instruments and prepare data from those instruments to beam back to Earth. That module is called the Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF).

The problem could also stem from a glitchy power regulator, NASA said. If the regulator is sending the wrong voltages to Hubble's hardware, that could explain the widespread issues.

NASA plans to continue assessing other parts of the telescope over the next week, the agency's update said. If it looks like the CU/SDF or the power regulator are the cause of the problem, the team plans to switch to their respective backup parts. (Hubble has a lot of backups, since NASA no longer has spaceships that can carry astronauts to it to replace defective parts.)

Even though Hubble is 31 years old, it's been doing more scientific work than ever in the last few years. NASA hopes to keep the telescope going well into the 2020s.

"Hubble is one of NASA's most important astrophysics missions. It's been operating for over 31 years, and NASA is hopeful it will last for many more years," a NASA spokesperson told Insider earlier this week. "From a perspective of the value of Hubble to the scientific community, it is still the most powerful telescope available, so age is not a decision-making factor."

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Dazzling dynamic duo: Hubble captures galaxy pair in final stages of merging

Hindustan Times 26 June, 2021 - 12:45pm

Nasa on Friday shared an image of a cataclysmic cosmic collision featuring an interacting galaxy pair that lies around 275 million light-years away in the constellation Cetus. The image was taken with a Hubble Space Telescope operated by Nasa and European Space Agency (ESA). The image shows two galaxies that are in the final stages of merging.

The astronomers expect a powerful inflow of gas to ignite a frenzied burst of star formation in the resulting compact starburst galaxy, according to ESA. In 2008, The same interacting pair of galaxies, IC 1623, was captured by Hubble using two filters at optical and infrared wavelengths on the Advanced Camera for Surveys.

The latest image of the interacting galaxy pair incorporates data from Wide Field Camera 3, Hubble's most technologically advanced instrument to take images in the visible spectrum, and combines observations taken in eight filters spanning infrared to ultraviolet wavelengths to reveal the finer details of IC 1623.

Also Read | Mystery of ‘see-through’ galaxy deepens after new Hubble observation: Nasa

ESA said that future observations of the galaxy pair using the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s largest and most powerful space telescope targeted for the October 31 launch, will shed more light on the processes powering extreme star formation in environments such as IC 1623.

Webb is Nasa’s next space science observatory, which will help in solving the mysteries of the solar system and probing the mystifying structures and origins of our universe. It is an international program led by Nasa, along with its partners ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

A team of scientists will train Webb on six of the most distant and luminous quasars, the active supermassive black holes that are millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun. The Webb telescope will actually look back in time as light from these distant quasars began its journey to Webb when the universe was very young and took billions of years to arrive.

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Hubble Has a Computer Problem and It's Difficult to Fix | Digital Trends

Digital Trends 26 June, 2021 - 12:00pm

The problem began on Sunday, June 13, when the Hubble payload computer stopped working. This computer, built in the 1980s, controls all of the telescope’s science instruments, so it’s an essential part of the Hubble system. When the computer stopped responding, all of the science instruments were automatically put into safe mode.

The first thing the NASA Hubble team did to try and fix the problem was just what we all do when a computer stops working — turn it off and turn it on again. They restarted the computer on Monday, June 14, but that didn’t fix the issue. They thought that the problem might be a degrading memory module, so they got ready to switch to a backup module instead. But that didn’t work either, as the command to switch to the backup wasn’t accepted.

The Hubble team continued to work on running diagnostics and bringing the memory module online through last week. They found that the issue might actually lie in a different piece of hardware, the Standard Interface (STINT), or with the Central Processing Module (CPM), with the issue with the memory module being a symptom of this underlying problem.

There are two payload computers in the telescope, the primary one and a backup, which both use the same type of hardware. So the team tried turning on the backup computer this week, but it had the same problem as the primary computer. Even though it didn’t work, the fact the same error happened with both computers gives the team more information on what might be wrong.

“Since it is highly unlikely that all individual hardware elements have a problem, the team is now looking at other hardware as the possible culprit, including the Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF), another module on the SI C&DH,” NASA wrote. “The CU formats and sends commands and data to specific destinations, including the science instruments. The SDF formats the science data from the science instruments for transmission to the ground. The team is also looking at the power regulator to see if possibly the voltages being supplied to hardware are not what they should be. A power regulator ensures a steady constant voltage supply. If the voltage is out of limits, it could cause the problems observed.”

The team intends to continue its testing over the next week. Fingers crossed for this very special piece of scientific equipment to be fixed soon so it can get back to capturing stunning images of space.

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Welp, the Hubble Backup Computer Just Broke Too

Futurism 26 June, 2021 - 11:06am

After a series of tests this week, researchers discovered that the Hubble’s backup payload computer — the computer they planned to switch to in case their attempts to fix the telescope failed — was also glitching, according to Insider.

“Since it is highly unlikely that all individual hardware elements have a problem, the team is now looking at other hardware as the possible culprit,” NASA said in the update.  

READ MORE: Even the Hubble Space Telescope’s backup computer is glitching now — raising new questions about what’s gone wrong [Insider]

More on the Hubble: It’s Looking Possible That the Hubble Is Dead Forever

NASA completes tests to identify problem with Hubble Space Telescope computer

Fox News 26 June, 2021 - 10:27am

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NASA's Hubble teleschope is sharing the wonders of the universe with its latest find, a 'pinwheeling' galaxy.

NASA said Friday it had completed additional diagnostic testing in an effort to identify a problem with the Hubble Space Telescope's (HST) payload computer

This announcement comes on the heels of additional testing on Wednesday and Thursday and after the spacecraft's payload computer "halted" on June 13 and it stopped collecting science data

In a release, the agency noted that the HST – named for trailblazing astronomer Edwin Hubble – and its science instruments remain in "good health and are currently in a safe configuration."

The telescope has two payload computers, one of which is a back, and they're located on the Science Instrument and Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. 

The computers are comprised of a Central Processing Module (CPM), a Standard Interface (STINT), a communications bus and one active memory module, though there are three additional backup modules.

The June 23 and June 24 tests involved turning on the backup computer for the first time in space and scientists found that numerous tests of both payload computers' hardware pieces resulted in the same error and " commands to write into or read from memory" were unsuccessful.

Now, the agency has reportedly turned its attention to other hardware, including the Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF) on the SI C&DH unit. 

According to the update, the CU formats and sends commands and data to "specific destinations" that include the science instruments and the SDF formats the science data from the science instruments to relay it to the Earth.

The power regulator is also a potential culprit and NASA said the team would continue to assess hardware on the SI C&DH unit over the next week.

"If the team determines the CU/SDF or the power regulator is the likely cause, they will recommend switching to the backup CU/SDF module and the backup power regulator," it said.

This is not the first time this year that the HST has run into operating issues.

In March, the telescope "went into safe mode due to an onboard software error." The issue was resolved just days later and science operations quickly resumed – though getting the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) instrument up and functional proved a little more difficult.

The HST was deployed by the space shuttle Discovery in 1990 and has been observing the universe for more than 31 years.

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The telescope's observation capabilities have "grown immensely" as new, cutting-edge scientific instruments were added over the course of five astronaut servicing missions.

The HST has made more than 1.4 million observations over the course of its lifetime -- contributing to some of the most significant discoveries of the cosmos – and looked back into the universe's past to locations more than 13.4 billion light-years from Earth.

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NASA Continues Work on Hubble Space Telescope – Backup Computer Turned On, but It Fails With the Same Error

SciTechDaily 26 June, 2021 - 09:16am

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched by the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990. Avoiding distortions of the atmosphere, Hubble has an unobstructed view peering to planets, stars, and galaxies, some more than 13.4 billion light-years away. Credit: NASA

NASA is continuing to diagnose a problem with the payload computer on the Hubble Space Telescope after completing another set of tests on June 23 and 24. The payload computer halted on June 13 and the spacecraft stopped collecting science data. The telescope itself and its science instruments remain in good health and are currently in a safe configuration.

The spacecraft has two payload computers, one of which serves as a backup, that are located on the Science Instrument and Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. There are various pieces of hardware which make up both payload computers, including but not limited to:

Additional tests performed on June 23 and 24 included turning on the backup computer for the first time in space. The tests showed that numerous combinations of these hardware pieces from both the primary and backup payload computer all experienced the same error — commands to write into or read from memory were not successful.

Since it is highly unlikely that all individual hardware elements have a problem, the team is now looking at other hardware as the possible culprit, including the Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF), another module on the SI C&DH. The CU formats and sends commands and data to specific destinations, including the science instruments. The SDF formats the science data from the science instruments for transmission to the ground. The team is also looking at the power regulator to see if possibly the voltages being supplied to hardware are not what they should be. A power regulator ensures a steady constant voltage supply. If the voltage is out of limits, it could cause the problems observed.

Over the next week, the team will continue to assess hardware on the SI C&DH unit to identify if something else may be causing the problem. If the team determines the CU/SDF or the power regulator is the likely cause, they will recommend switching to the backup CU/SDF module and the backup power regulator.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has been observing the universe for over 31 years. It has contributed to some of the most significant discoveries of our cosmos, including the accelerating expansion of the universe, the evolution of galaxies over time, and the first atmospheric studies of planets beyond our solar system. Read more about some of Hubble’s key scientific contributions. 

Why replace what seems to be working? Since the backup and main unit both exhibit the error, it seems more likely that the cause is something like the possibilities the article mentioned instead. Hacking also seems unlikely.

I would say to let them do their jobs and investigate it further. Even if they don’t find the cause right away, ruling things out will help them make wise decisions for the next servicing mission. Mass is mass.

What a bunch of empty words, that say nothing else but ‘keep trying’ Whoopie…

It seems the data bus or address bus is a commonality. Is there a secondary bus system? OSIRIS-Rx baby!!!

James Webb telescope to the rescue!!

I bet they need the little button batteries that keep the date, etc. changed out.

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Having diagnosed, repaired, modified and altered 1000s of systems, this is clearly a common/shared hardware issue, possibly a secondary circuit board related to power swap alts or other related power transfer. The module can be bypassed and/or replaced, but will require a person to effect the mods.

Yeah that’s what I’m thinking the Hubble sounds like it’s been hacked and I won’t be surprised if china or Russia had something to do with this issue or even something even more far fetched as :::Aliens::: maybe the telescope caught some sort of data something they didnt want humans to know or maybe it’s as simple as malfunctioning part of equipment.

Do you have ‘HAL’ aboard?!? Did he flick some switches? Just asking… Nevertheless, 31 yes is in itself already kinda amazing! Keep working away…

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Already-weird galaxy found to have oddly little dark matter

Livescience.com 26 June, 2021 - 08:41am

The greater distance confirms the researchers' initial suspicions that there is much less dark matter in the galaxy than expected.

"For almost every galaxy we look at, we say that we can't see most of the mass because it's dark matter," van Dokkum said in the statement. "What you see is only the tip of the iceberg with Hubble. But in this case, what you see is what you get. Hubble really shows the entire thing. That's it. It’s not just the tip of the iceberg, it's the whole iceberg."

But it's possible something might have happened to both DF2 and DF4 as they evolved. And astronomers haven't failed to notice the elephant in the galactic cluster: both galaxies live in a region dominated by the utterly massive galaxy NGC 1052.

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Even the Hubble Space Telescope's backup computer is glitching now - raising new questions about what's gone wrong

Yahoo News 25 June, 2021 - 07:12pm

After three failed attempts to fix Hubble, NASA determined the computer had a processing issue.

But the backup computer just glitched, too, hinting that the issue lies somewhere else.

See more stories on Insider's business page.

NASA has been trying to figure out what's wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope for nearly two weeks, but the mystery just deepened.

Hubble, which launched into orbit in 1990, is the world's most powerful space telescope. It has captured images of the births and deaths of stars, discovered new moons around Pluto, and tracked two interstellar objects as they zipped through our solar system. Hubble's observations have allowed astronomers to calculate the age and expansion of the universe and to peer at galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang.

But the Earth-orbiting observatory hasn't done any scientific work for 12 days. The telescope's payload computer - a 1980s machine that controls and monitors all the spacecraft's science instruments - suddenly stopped working on June 13.

NASA's Hubble team has been troubleshooting ever since. But the team figured that even if they couldn't fix the computer, they could always switch to Hubble's backup payload computer.

This week, though, NASA discovered that the backup computer was glitching, too. So now it's hunting for a new explanation for Hubble's mysterious problems.

NASA first tried - unsuccessfully - to restart the payload computer. Then the team turned its attention to memory module that has been degrading, since it was registering errors. The Hubble team thought that could be the root of the problem, but no luck there, either. Both the memory module and one of its three backups wouldn't work. That indicated the source of the issue was further upstream.

The team began running diagnostic tests on other parts of the payload computer this week. They also decided to power up the backup payload computer - which hasn't been turned on since astronauts installed it on the telescope in 2009. But the new computer showed the same errors, in the same hardware, as the original.

That indicates that the payload computer may not be the problem after all. It's probably another system, still further upstream.

"Since it is highly unlikely that all individual hardware elements have a problem, the team is now looking at other hardware as the possible culprit," NASA said in a blog update on Friday.

The Hubble team now thinks the culprit could be a module that helps send commands to the telescope's science instruments and prepare data from those instruments to beam back to Earth. That module is called the Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF).

The problem could also stem from a glitchy power regulator, NASA said. If the regulator is sending the wrong voltages to Hubble's hardware, that could explain the widespread issues.

NASA plans to continue assessing other parts of the telescope over the next week, the agency's update said. If it looks like the CU/SDF or the power regulator are the cause of the problem, the team plans to switch to their respective backup parts. (Hubble has a lot of backups, since NASA no longer has spaceships that can carry astronauts to it to replace defective parts.)

Even though Hubble is 31 years old, it's been doing more scientific work than ever in the last few years. NASA hopes to keep the telescope going well into the 2020s.

"Hubble is one of NASA's most important astrophysics missions. It's been operating for over 31 years, and NASA is hopeful it will last for many more years," a NASA spokesperson told Insider earlier this week. "From a perspective of the value of Hubble to the scientific community, it is still the most powerful telescope available, so age is not a decision-making factor."

Read the original article on Business Insider

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Astronomers work out when the first stars shone

Yahoo News 25 June, 2021 - 07:19am

They say that this period, known as the "cosmic dawn," occurred between 250 to 350 million years after the Big Bang.

The results indicate that the first galaxies will be bright enough to be seen by Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope, which is set to be launched later this year.

The study is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Discovering when the cosmic dawn began has been the life's work of Prof Richard Ellis, from University College London, UK.

He told BBC News: "The Holy Grail has been to look back far enough that you would be able to see the very first generation of stars and galaxies. And now we have the first convincing evidence of when the Universe was first bathed in starlight."

The team analysed six of the most distant galaxies. They were so far away that even with the world's most powerful telescopes they appeared as just a few pixels on the computer screen.

They are also among the earliest to have emerged in the Universe and so, by the time their images are captured by telescopes on Earth, they are seen not long after the Big Bang.

By working out their age, the team calculated the start of the cosmic dawn - when the first stars formed. Dr Nicolas Laporte, from the Kavli Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge led the analysis.

"This is one of the biggest questions in modern cosmology. This is the first time we have been able to predict from observations when this crucial moment in the history of the Universe occurred."

Dr Laporte said that obtaining the result was a dream come true.

"It is fantastic to think that particles of light have been travelling through space for over 13 billion years and then entered a telescope. The wonderful thing about being an astrophysicist is the ability to time travel and witness the distant past," he explained.

The Universe came into being 13.8 billion years ago in the Big Bang. After an initial flash, it went through a period known as the cosmic dark ages. According to the new study, 250 to 350 million years after the Big Bang, the first stars emerged, bringing light to the cosmos.

Critically, the new analysis also indicates that the first galaxies are bright enough and within the range where they can be seen by the James Webb Space Telescope - the successor to the venerable Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomers may then be able to witness this crucial moment in the evolution of the Universe directly.

Scotland's Astronomer Royal, Prof Catherine Heymans, said she was "so excited" by this prospect.

She told BBC News: "Isn't it just so fantastic that, as humanity, a tiny civilisation on Panet Earth, we can create a telescope that we can send up into space and we can peer back to the Universe as it was just a couple of hundred million years after the Big Bang!"

Many of the first stars were quite different to our own Sun. They were more massive and burned only hydrogen. But these objects created the next generation of stars that led to the formation of heavier periodic table elements.

Everything except for hydrogen, helium and lithium, is created inside stars when they explode at the end of their lives.

We are, therefore, ultimately made from the stars that were born close to the dawn of the cosmos.

"Because we are ourselves the produce of stellar evolution, we are looking back at our own origin," said Prof Ellis.

The researchers analysed starlight from the galaxies using both Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope. They estimated the age of the galaxies by examining the proportion of hydrogen atoms in the atmosphere of their stars. The older the stars, the greater the proportion of hydrogen atoms.

The team then calculated how far away the galaxies were. Because light from these galaxies takes time to reach us, the further away they are, the further back in time astronomers are observing them.

Because the six galaxies the team studied are at the limits of objects that can be observed by telescopes, they are also among the earliest known.

The team needed 70 hours of observing time, using four of the largest ground-based telescopes to estimate their distances. These were the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (Alma), the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Gemini South Telescope - all located in Chile - as well as the twin Keck telescopes in Hawaii.

These measurements enabled the team to confirm that they were observing these galaxies when the Universe was 550 million years old. Knowing the age of the galaxies and when they existed enabled the team to calculate when the first stars were born.

Similar estimates have been made using just single galaxies, but this is the first meaningful estimate based on a representative group of them.

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SpaceX is planning an imminent Starship orbital mission, but its licence only covers suborbital flights of the prototype, Space News reported.

In making the veracity of research dependent on fleeting political movements, it may be those on the left killing science’s reputation.

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