The Hubble Space Telescope has returned from the dead to resume science operations while waiting for its James Webb Telescope partner to launch later this month. After a glitch on October 25, the flying observatory had remained blind in space for almost a month.
"The team will continue work on developing and testing changes to instrument software that would allow them to conduct science operations even if they encounter several lost synchronization messages in the future," NASA wrote in the announcement.
Hubble had an issue with its internal communications synchronization in late October. All four of the scope's science instruments were turned off, although Hubble remained operational for the time being.
The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), the first of the instruments to return to service, was functioning by Nov. 7, while the other four remained in "safe mode" for safety.
The Hubble team will keep working to prevent such problems, with the first step being a software update for Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph instrument, which will be installed in mid-December. NASA has announced that Hubble's other research instruments will be updated in the coming months.
Engineers recovered an Imaging Spectrograph that breaks light down into its constituent parts, similar to how a prism splits white light into a rainbow. The Wide Field Camera 3 and the ACS capture a wide-field view of the universe.
Hubble had also gone dark in June of this year. A defective payload computer onboard that coordinates science operations caused the month-long shutdown. On June 13, when the main computer failed to receive a signal from the payload computer, Hubble's science equipment went into safe mode, rendering it blind in space.
Another powerful telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, will soon join Hubble in space, thanks to a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. Webb uses infrared technology to make unique observations that supplement Hubble's.
"With the launch of the Webb Telescope planned for later this month, NASA expects the two observatories will work together well into this decade, expanding our knowledge of the cosmos even further," NASA added in the announcement.
The Hubble Space Telescope has been in operation for nearly three decades and has seen numerous teams and engineers come and go. When it was last fixed in 2009, the telescope had previously encountered a number of issues. The telescope had previously experienced issues with its Imaging Spectrograph, which experienced a power outage in 2004, and an electrical short in 2007 that impacted its ACS.