Hubble ACS, We Hardly Knew You
January 29, 2007 8:22 PM   Subscribe

Hubble's ACS Has Died. Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys has apparently gone into safe mode, with little hope of return. The ACS was installed in 2002, and added amazing upgrades to Hubble's imaging capabilities. Though its lifespan was only projected at five years, scientists had hoped it would hold out longer. Though a final shuttle servicing mission is scheduled for 2008, the mission objectives plate is already too full to consider its repair. Alas, more of those beautiful pictures (as well as extended research capabilities) will have to wait until the James Webb Space Telescope is launched in 2013.
posted by Brak (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
*
posted by fandango_matt at 8:29 PM on January 29, 2007


¤
posted by furtive at 8:39 PM on January 29, 2007


@__ (runaway galaxy)
posted by brain cloud at 8:50 PM on January 29, 2007


Someone ask the Chinese to put the ol' boy down.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:52 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


%
posted by anthill at 8:56 PM on January 29, 2007


§ (spiral galaxy)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 PM on January 29, 2007


. (would have looked more like a galaxy and less like a dot through the ACS)
posted by pinespree at 9:20 PM on January 29, 2007


I think Jim Webb is a pretty cool Senator too, but it seems a little early to name a space telescope after him...
posted by delmoi at 9:47 PM on January 29, 2007


The Hubble Ultra Deep Field — 10,000 galaxies in an area 1/50th the diameter of the full Moon (1/12,700,000th of the entire sky), taken during 400 orbits with a total exposure time of about 1,000,000 seconds.

That was some shootin'.
posted by cenoxo at 10:02 PM on January 29, 2007


That first paragraph in the lead article is confusing. Hubble went into safe mode, for about 18 hours, then came back up. ACS isn't in safe mode, it's just stuffed. They're looking at switching back to its primary electronics package, to see if they can restore some functionality.
In any event, next year's service mission should install Wide Field Camera 3, so we can have lots of pretty pictures again.
posted by zamboni at 10:17 PM on January 29, 2007


zamboni writes "In any event, next year's service mission should install Wide Field Camera 3, so we can have lots of pretty pictures again."

Yeah, it's my understanding that this new camera will fill many of the gaps created by the death of the ACS. And Hubble still has two cameras among it's current instrument set: NICMOS and WFPC2. So it can still take pretty pictures.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:54 PM on January 29, 2007


So are they going to replace the gyroscopes? I remember reading a couple of years ago that it was on it's last legs due to dying gyroscopes or something.
posted by delmoi at 11:27 PM on January 29, 2007



posted by pruner at 11:28 PM on January 29, 2007


delmoi writes "So are they going to replace the gyroscopes? I remember reading a couple of years ago that it was on it's last legs due to dying gyroscopes or something."

Yeah, they changed their minds about that. There's going to be a mission to service the 'scope in 2008, and that includes replacing the gyroscopes.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:30 PM on January 29, 2007


æ
(entwined spirals)
posted by NinjaTadpole at 2:11 AM on January 30, 2007


Does anyone still think the James Webb telescope will actually be launched? I suspect it will become a victim of the Republican War on Science, along with the flaming wreck of NASA and our spaceflight programs.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:18 AM on January 30, 2007


Ω
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:59 AM on January 30, 2007


Fuck Fuck Fuckkity Fuck Fuck.

We don't have anything ready to replace ACS. The Wide Field Camera 3 is going to replace WFPC2, and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph is slated to fill the bay where COSTAR currently sits1

The problem? WFPC2 is "Wide Field *and* Planetary Camera 2". WFC3 is "Wide Field Camera". Notice something missing?

Angular resolution. ACS has a wide field camera, but it also has a high resolution camera. WFC3 will have a wider field camera2, but nothing with high angular resolution. Why? Because with ACS, they already had that, so they wanted something with an even wider field of few and a wider viewing bandwidth.

WFC3 is a good camera, and I'm glad that SM4 is back on the manifest. But WFC3 was built as a compliment to ACS, not a replacement, and losing ACS is a bad blow -- it means that we've lost all of Hubble's zoom lenses. ACS replaced FOC -- the Faint Object Camera -- which was HST's former long lens.

Hopefully, they'll be able to either resolve this, or possibly work a fix into the Service Mission. I doubt they can replace it -- even if they had a spare instrument, or could get one built before launch, the SM Manifest is already crowded -- two instrument swap, a repair to STIS, gyroscope swaps, power supply, FGS swaps, and a host of small details -- so even if another package is ready, they might not have the time to install it.


1) COSTAR was the corrective optics that refocused the image onto the other instruments. However, as those instruments were replaced, they came with their own corrective optics, and after Service Mission 3B, there wasn't anything left using COSTAR, so they're going to pull it out and replace it with an instrument.

2) They were going to swap roles. Currently, ACS is the survey camera, and WFPC2 the detailed imaging camera. After the swap, WFC3 would become the survey camera, and ACS the detailed imaging camera.
posted by eriko at 5:47 AM on January 30, 2007


# (Q-net)
posted by Anything at 10:26 AM on January 30, 2007


Much much more about ACS at its home page.
posted by pombe at 12:08 PM on January 30, 2007


Note that Webb (which is named for a former NASA administrator, not the Senator, or the cake-in-the-rain guy) is an infrared-based telescope. It's not designed for pretty pictures, despite tremendous science capability, and is not a replacement for Hubble.

Apparently the electronics for ACS are inaccessible without removing the entire package, one reason there is probably no chance of working a fix into the schedule.
posted by dhartung at 12:57 PM on January 30, 2007


Didn't NASA make a backup for every satellite it made? Is there a mothballed Hubble 2 sitting in a warehouse somewhere? Anyone have an idea what the cost would be to replace Hubble with an exact replica? (versus the cost of a mission to fix it?)
posted by mhh5 at 1:46 PM on January 30, 2007


"Didn't NASA make a backup for every satellite it made?" Is there a mothballed Hubble 2 sitting in a warehouse somewhere?

Considering that Hubble's manufacture required the grinding of the largest, highest-precision telescope mirror ever made, no. (Actually, there was a backup mirror made, which is apparently now on display in the Smithsonian.)
posted by neckro23 at 3:09 PM on January 30, 2007


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