Is the Hubble Dead?

The Hubble Space Telescope is over 30 years old.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been offline for more than a week. Scientists at NASA do not know why. 

According to NASA, the computer that controls the Hubble Space Telescope's science instruments suddenly stopped working on June 13, 2021. Since then, NASA has tried to fix it three times, which all failed. 

Although the Hubble has a backup computer, engineers are still trying to pinpoint why the first computer failed. They do not want the backup to suddenly die, too. 

The computer controls and monitors all the science instruments on the space telescope. NASA tried to restart it on June 14, but failed. 

One theory is that the computer's memory module was starting to break, so the engineers tried switching to one of three backup modules onboard the telescope. That also didn't work. When NASA tried to bring back the old module and the current one online, both did not work. 

NASA released a statement about the mysterious problem. 

"The computer halted on Sunday, June 13.  An attempt to restart the computer failed on Monday, June 14.  Initial indications pointed to a degrading computer memory module as the source of the computer halt. When the operations team attempted to switch to a back-up memory module, however, the command to initiate the backup module failed to complete. Another attempt was conducted on both modules Thursday evening to obtain more diagnostic information while again trying to bring those memory modules online. However, those attempts were not successful."

The prized space telescope was launched into earth's orbit in 1990, and has produced the most stunning pictures of the Universe. It has captured the birth and death of galaxies, and has imaged the edge of the Universe. 


The Most Important Image Taken by Hubble

The most important image taken by the space telescope is called the Hubble Deep Field. In 1995, curious astronomers at NASA pointed the Hubble toward what they thought was a dark, empty spot in space. The L-shaped object in the photo below is the spot where they focused Hubble's sights. 

Hubble Deep Field: The Tiny Dark Spot

Photo by NASA.

For 10 days, Hubble gathered the faintest light from this little patch of the night sky. The move was such a risk because time on the Hubble is very expensive. Astronomers were not sure it would even produce anything. 

When the imaging was completed, scientists were very surprised and humbled with what they found: 3,000 galaxies in a single picture. 

Photo by NASA.
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Over the years, NASA has improved images of the Hubble Deep Field by combining 16 years of  Hubble's photographs taken of the patch of sky at the center of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. 

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