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On Monday, NASA tweeted: "The Hubble team is working to resume science after Hubble entered safe mode due to 1 of 3 gyros failing". Friday's failure means Hubble is down to just two, a situation that triggered its entry into safe mode.

The Hubble Space Telescope is in trouble.

The Hubble space telescope, which has been in orbit since 1990, is now out of action because of a gyroscope failure, the United States space agency said Monday.

The current plan, according to Dr. Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head for the observatory, is to try and revive a previously failed gyroscope to replace this new failure. Now a plan is being drawn up to return to 3-gyro operations, but if that doesn't work out then it will continue in a reduced gyro mode that only uses one.

The telescope could work with as few as one or two gyroscopes, although that leaves little room for additional breakdowns.

The six gyros on the Hubble were restored in 2009 during concluding servicing mission to the instrument by NASA's space shuttle.

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All science operations with the Hubble telescope are now suspended while NASA investigates the anomaly.

Scientists are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

Responding to a claim that the safe mode was "scary news for the most famous telescope in history", Dr Osten downplayed the issues.

Even if that particular gyroscope stays out of order, Hubble can get back to work - while it works best with three gyroscopes, the telescope can run on just one without losing too much scientific power. "If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration", the agency stated. That extended lifetime is something the astronomical community "wants desperately", she added.

Astronomers are anxiously awaiting the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for 2021, but until then Hubble remains the most powerful space telescope in the sky - and the best tool for peering deep into space.

While NASA says that reduced-gyro mode would have "relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", some astronomers are concerned that the reduced-gyro mode could adversely affect some types of observations, such as of solar system objects, that require the precision of three-gyro operations.


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