NASAs Chandra X-ray telescope back in action after brief shutdown

Olive Hawkins
October 18, 2018

One possible reason identified last week was a glitch in a gyroscope that confused the machine and forced it to enter safe mode as a precaution to prevent any damage. The space agency revealed on Friday that an investigation into the incident is now underway, though it added data analysis indicated the safe mode transition to be "normal behaviour".

Barely a week after NASA's Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode, the Chandra mission has also suffered a glitch possibly due to the failure of the gyroscope, the USA space agency said.

The incredible spacecraft boasts what NASA describes as "the largest, most precisely shaped and aligned, and smoothest mirrors ever constructed", and it is now among the most powerful telescopes in the world. It is normal behavior for the spacecraft to enter safe mode when it is experiencing a hardware or software failure or glitch.

"The cause of the safe mode transition (possibly involving a gyroscope) is under investigation", NASA said in a statement late on Friday. However, the agency came to an end after evaluating date from the transition that Chandra's scientific devices are sound and safe.

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The observatory looks deep into space at objects such as black holes, galaxies, supernovas, high-temperature gases and quasars using the x-ray part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Its mission is to detect X-ray emissions from across the universe that would not be detected by instruments on Earth.

Since the spacecraft was launched in 1999, it has been closely monitoring and X-raying our universe.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990, has also entered hibernation and halted science operations. It's one of four observatories in NASA's Great Observatory program, which also includes the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope. Gyroscopes are used to stabilize and point the telescope into a certain direction for long periods of time. The remaining three act as reserves. However, even the last one was malfunctioning. Scientists at ground control will continue to try and fix the gyroscope.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode on Wednesday to protect itself from potential issues.

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