NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory back in action after glitchy gyroscope woes

NASA expects observations from Chandra to resume as per usual by the end of this week.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is back full-steam after a two-day shutdown, the agency announced 15 October, Monday.

The space agency expects data and observations from Chandra to resume as per usual by the end of this week.

The Chandra Observatory came back online on Friday after a two-day shutdown, the update said. The malfunction came days after the Hubble Space Telescope began facing technical issues of its own.

Both the telescopes appeared to have similar issues with their gyroscopes, or pointing systems.

The Chandra observatory's glitch caused its gyroscope to generate three seconds of bad data — enough for the 19-year-old telescope to send itself into 'safe-mode' and cease its science operations.

An artist illustration of the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Image courtesy: NASA

An artist illustration of the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Image courtesy: NASA

When the telescope goes into this configuration, all its critical hardware is swapped to its redundant counterparts onboard, NASA said. The spacecraft also aligns itself to receive maximum sunlight on its solar panels, with mirrors that are used for imaging angled away from the Sun.

Over the next few days, a series of software patches for flying instructions will be configured onto Chandra.

NASA engineers have restored the Observatory's pointing abilities by switching to a backup gyroscope onboard, and plan to keep the faulty gyroscope in-reserve.

From its 1999 launch, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has been looking for X-ray signals in our galaxy. These come from some of the most distant and bizarre astronomical events in the universe.

Since Earth's atmosphere blocks out a majority of the X-rays, Chandra was sent above the atmosphere to capture these high-energy, short-wavelength light signals. The Observatory has high-resolution mirrors that can detect X-rays 100 times fainter than any X-ray telescope built prior to it.

A false-colour composite of the Cassiopeia A supernova, with data from Spitzer, Hubble and Chandra telescopes. Image: NASA

A false-colour composite of the Cassiopeia A supernova, with data from Spitzer, Hubble and Chandra telescopes. Image: NASA

Chandra has contributed to many discoveries over its nearly 2-decade lifetime, including a recent first glimpse of crushed-star remnants from the supernova, Cassiopeia A.

While the Chandra Observatory appears to be back on its way to full-throttle, Hubble appears to still be tied up with more serious gyroscope issues that started 5 October.

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