The newest, most powerful space telescope in operation is back at work after a glitch that prevented several days of scientific observations.
The mission staff behind the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb or JWST) spent about two weeks battling a problem that first appeared on Dec. 7, according to a NASA statement (opens in new tab). According to NASA officials, the fault never threatened the telescope and normal operations resumed on Tuesday (December 20).
“The observatory and instruments are all healthy and not in danger, and Webb’s built-in fault management system worked as expected to keep the hardware safe,” NASA officials wrote.
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JWST will mark a full year in space on Sunday (December 25). It started scientific activities in July. Earlier this year, the observatory faced two other issues: In May, a micrometeoroid impact caused a little more damage than environmental models likely predicted, and in August the observatory’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) experienced a problem with one of the his models. four observation modes.
However, the recent issue appears to be the first to halt all science work, across the observatory.
According to NASA, the problem began on December 7, when JWST’s attitude control system, which keeps the observatory shielded from the sun and able to reach Earth, experienced a software problem. The error sent the telescope into safe mode, a state in which a spacecraft shuts down non-essential systems and hunts in a stable configuration while it waits for engineers to investigate an issue.
The observatory entered safe mode and recovered from it several times over the next few days, NASA’s statement implied.
“This event resulted in several outages in scientific operations, totaling several days during this time period,” officials wrote. “Science progressed differently in that period.” (Observations missed by JWST will be rescheduled where possible, officials noted.)
The matter is now under control, according to the statement, after mission staff “adjusted the command system”. Normal operations resumed on Tuesday (December 20), just as the telescope celebrated its first anniversary in space.