Dec 10, 2008 | 2
A poorly kept secret is now official: the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system. That's a first in the study of extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, which have been quite the hot topic this year.
The exoplanet HD 189733 b, roughly the mass of Jupiter, orbits a star 63 light-years away in extremely close company. Although the planet can't be seen directly, scientists used Hubble data to analyze its atmospheric composition and turn up CO2 as well as carbon monoxide (CO). They did this by comparing the light spectrum from the star with that from the star and planet combined, as the planet passes in front of its star.
Although HD 189733 b is way too steamy for life as we know it—roughly 1,950 degrees Fahrenheit (1,065 degrees Celsius) by one estimate—the finding, leaked to media outlets two weeks ago, shows that techniques exist to find markers of life on other planets. (The paper has been submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters.)
Oct 15, 2008 | 1
The Hubble Space Telescope has had a long and illustrious run, helping to pin down the age of the universe and pointing the way to the existence of dark energy. But that run may be halted if engineers can’t switch some operations over to backup units.
A formatter on the satellite’s Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SIC&DH) unit failed last month, and today NASA began the process of switching over operations to the components on a backup formatter, most of which have not been powered up since Hubble’s 1990 launch.
Since the September 27 failure, Hubble has been largely incapacitated, as the SIC&DH component that failed, the Science Data Formatter, handles many key activities, including routing data and commands on board the satellite and relaying science information back to Earth.
Sep 29, 2008 | 1
A problem with one of the Hubble Space Telescope's computers this weekend disabled the satellite's data relay system and will delay next month's shuttle Atlantis maintenance mission—the final trip to the telescope—until the crew can be trained in how to install a replacement system. The mission was expected to keep the Hubble running at least until 2014.
The Hubble on September 27 started having difficulty storing and sending data back to Earth. NASA is planning to reroute these functions to another part of the telescope, launched in 1990. The Hubble operations team believes it will be ready to reconfigure Hubble later this week, according to a NASA press release.
A successful reconfiguration will restore the Hubble's normal science operations, but NASA would still have to deliver a new backup system in the event such a failure happens again.
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