Several readers wrote in to tell us, following up on the recent story of the shutting down of Hubble's main camera, that program engineers are now saying that the camera is probably gone for good. The trouble resulted from a short circuit on Saturday in Hubble's most popular instrument, the Advanced Camera for Surveys. NASA engineers reported Monday that most of the camera's capabilities, including the ability to take the sort of deep cosmic postcards that have inspired the public, had probably been lost. We'll be pining for more of those amazing images until the James Webb launches in 2013.
Update: 01/30 23:28 GMT by KD : Reader Involved astronomer wrote in with an addendum / clarification to this story: "I'm a grant-funded astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (www.stsci.edu) in Baltimore. I am very concerned that the article conveys the wrong idea about HST. While HST's science capacity is diminished with the loss of ACS, HST lives on and will continue to produce world-class science, even before its servicing mission in Sept. 2008, which will upgrade the instrument suite with the most sophisticated imagers in history." Read on for the rest of his note.I'd like to point out these facts:
- A fuse blew on ACS side two electronics — This will LIKELY (we're not 100% sure yet) render the Wide-field channel and the High-resolution channel (e.g. 2/3rds of the camera) inoperable. The solar blind channel will likely be returned to operation.
- While we have lost (2/3rds) of ACS, NICMOS and WFPC2, two fantastic imagers, are still operational. WFPC2 is responsible for many of the gorgeous images that grace many of your desktop wallpapers.
- ACS had an expected lifetime of 5 years. It met that lifetime. The loss of ACS, while of course disappointing, is not necessarily a shock.
- Servicing mission 4 is currently scheduled for Sept. 2008. It will upgrade HST to never-before-seen scientific capability and productivity. The Wide-Field Camera 3, which will be installed then, will essentially be an even more sophisticated successor to ACS.
You can view one of our press releases on this here: http://hubblesite.org/acs/.