Friday, January 11, 2019

Wide Field Camera 3 Anomaly on Hubble Space Telescope

Hubble Space Telescope in Orbit. Credit: NASA

At 17:23 UTC on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) on NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) suspended operations due to a hardware problem.

Hubble will continue to perform science observations with its other three active instruments, while the Wide Field Camera 3 anomaly is investigated. WFC3, installed during Servicing Mission 4 in 2009, is equipped with redundant electronics should they be needed to recover the instrument.

WFC3 sees three different kinds of light: near-ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared, though not simultaneously. Its resolution and field of view are much greater than that of Hubble's other instruments. WFC3 is one of Hubble's two newest instruments, and is used to study dark energy and dark matter, the formation of individual stars and the discovery of extremely remote galaxies previously beyond Hubble's vision.

WFC3 has two "channels." Each channel detects and processes different wavelengths. The ultraviolet-visible channel can be used to study nearby galaxies and galaxies undergoing bursts of star formation. The near-infrared channel can be used to study the light from distant galaxies, which has been stretched by its travels through the expanding universe into infrared light. Because we see the most distant galaxies as they were in the early life of the universe, this gives us a glimpse of the history and evolution of the universe.

WFC3 was developed jointly by the Hubble program at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation.


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