NASA stated in a news statement on Tuesday that experimental activities with the Webb Space Telescope restarted earlier this week after the equipment had been placed in safe mode periodically since December 7.
According to the announcement, Webb has been in safe mode many times over the last couple of weeks, meaning that no scientific activities have taken place while the station was in this position. While NASA has said that the problem has been fixed and that “the facility and equipment are all in excellent condition,” the organization did not disclose the incident until yesterday.
What is Webb?
Webb is an infrared as well as near-infrared satellite observatory that costs about $10 billion. After just of half-a-year of research, this cutting-edge telescope has already caught our imagination by casting fresh light on well-known landmarks such as the Columns of Creation. According to the NASA press statement, the attitude control system (the mechanism that determines the direction in which the observatory is pointed) had a “software malfunction.”
That’s pretty much everywhere, except during the springtime when the telescope is aimed away from the avoidance zone to shield its mirrors from potential damage. Corrosion to one of the mirror panes necessitated the adjustment.
According to NASA, the delays this month have meant that the telescope has been unable to conduct any studies. Science has resumed in full force, and the Webb crew is hard at work rescheduling the discoveries that were interrupted by the bug.
Webb published the galactic equivalent of a greeting card yesterday in the form of a picture of the galaxy cluster NGC 7469, which looks like a wreath. Webb estimates the distance to the galaxy to be 220 million light-years. From the location of the massive black hole in the heart of our galaxy, sharp diffraction spikes radiate outward.
Webb has photographed illumination from the early edges of the cosmos, light which was too weak for previous telescopes to perceive. Inspecting the first stars and planets to learn more about their origins and histories is one of Webb’s primary scientific aims. For the purpose of research, it would be ideal if Webb could sidestep safe mode. Of course, it’s always preferable to err on the side of caution, so now that the observatory seems to be operational again, fingers crossed that everything remains that way.