A camera that has taken some of the most spectacular pictures of the universe has packed up, Nasa revealed tonight. The Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble space telescope stopped working on Saturday.
Engineers believe that the power supply to its electronics failed. The loss is a blow to astronomers because the camera has recorded amazing images of targets from planets to distant gas clouds and galaxies. They include the photograph of the Orion Nebula shown here.
The camera had been operating on a back-up system since its primary electronics package malfunctioned in June last year.
Nasa will try to get the main electronics system operating again. However, if they fail then the camera could be out of action until a shuttle servicing mission flies to the orbiting telescope in September next year.
Hubble switched into a safe mode following the latest failure but was put back online on Sunday. Observations will resume this week using other Hubble instruments including a second imager, called the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.
A list of back-up observing programmes will be carried out to replace those that would have been performed with the ACS. The camera was installed during a previous shuttle servicing mission in March 2002. Hubble is jointly operated by Nasa and the European Space Agency.
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