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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Pauses Science Due to Gyro Issue
Hubble orbiting more than 300 miles above Earth as seen from the space shuttle. NASA NASA is working to resume science operations of the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope after it entered safe mode Nov. 23 due to an ongoing gyroscope (gyro) issue. Hubble’s instruments are stable, and the telescope is in good health.
The telescope automatically entered safe mode when one of its three gyroscopes gave faulty readings. The gyros measure the telescope’s turn rates and are part of the system that determines which direction the telescope is pointed. While in safe mode, science operations are suspended, and the telescope waits for new directions from the ground.
Hubble first went into safe mode Nov. 19. Although the operations team successfully recovered the spacecraft to resume observations the following day, the unstable gyro caused the observatory to suspend science operations once again Nov. 21. Following a successful recovery, Hubble entered safe mode again Nov. 23.
The team is now running tests to characterize the issue and develop solutions. If necessary, the spacecraft can be re-configured to operate with only one gyro. The spacecraft had six new gyros installed during the fifth and final space shuttle servicing mission in 2009. To date, three of those gyros remain operational, including the gyro currently experiencing fluctuations. Hubble uses three gyros to maximize efficiency, but could continue to make science observations with only one gyro if required.
NASA anticipates Hubble will continue making groundbreaking discoveries, working with other observatories, such as the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope, throughout this decade and possibly into the next.
Launched in 1990, Hubble has been observing the universe for more than 33 years. Read more about some of Hubble’s greatest scientific discoveries.
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3 Min Read Webb Telescope: A prominent protostar in Perseus
Webb Space Telescope reveals intricate details of the Herbig Haro object 797 (HH 797). This new Picture of the Month from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope reveals intricate details of the Herbig Haro object 797 (HH 797). Herbig-Haro objects are luminous regions surrounding newborn stars (known as protostars), and are formed when stellar winds or jets of gas spewing from these newborn stars form shockwaves colliding with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. HH 797, which dominates the lower half of this image, is located close to the young open star cluster IC 348, which is located near the eastern edge of the Perseus dark cloud complex. The bright infrared objects in the upper portion of the image are thought to host two further protostars.
This image was captured with Webb’s Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam). Infrared imaging is powerful in studying newborn stars and their outflows, because the youngest stars are invariably still embedded within the gas and dust from which they are formed. The infrared emission of the star’s outflows penetrates the obscuring gas and dust, making Herbig-Haro objects ideal for observation with Webb’s sensitive infrared instruments. Molecules excited by the turbulent conditions, including molecular hydrogen and carbon monoxide, emit infrared light that Webb can collect to visualise the structure of the outflows. NIRCam is particularly good at observing the hot (thousands of degree Celsius) molecules that are excited as a result of shocks.
Image: Protostar in Perseus
The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope reveals intricate details of the Herbig Haro object 797 (HH 797). Herbig-Haro objects are luminous regions surrounding newborn stars (known as protostars), and are formed when stellar winds or jets of gas spewing from these newborn stars form shockwaves colliding with nearby gas and dust at high speeds. HH 797, which dominates the lower half of this image, is located close to the young open star cluster IC 348, which is located near the eastern edge of the Perseus dark cloud complex. The bright infrared objects in the upper portion of the image are thought to host two further protostars. This image was captured with Webb’s Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam).ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, T. Ray (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) Using ground-based observations, researchers have previously found that for cold molecular gas associated with HH 797, most of the red-shifted gas (moving away from us) is found to the south (bottom right), while the blue-shifted gas (moving towards us) is to the north (bottom left). A gradient was also found across the outflow, such that at a given distance from the young central star, the velocity of the gas near the eastern edge of the jet is more red-shifted than that of the gas on the western edge. Astronomers in the past thought this was due to the outflow’s rotation. In this higher resolution Webb image, however, we can see that what was thought to be one outflow is in fact made up of two almost parallel outflows with their own separate series of shocks (which explains the velocity asymmetries). The source, located in the small dark region (bottom right of center), and already known from previous observations, is therefore not a single but a double star. Each star is producing its own dramatic outflow. Other outflows are also seen in this image, including one from the protostar in the top right of center along with its illuminated cavity walls.
HH 797 resides directly north of HH 211 (separated by approximately 30 arcseconds), which was the feature of a Webb image release in September 2023.
Laura Betz – email@example.com, Rob Gutro– firstname.lastname@example.org
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, , Greenbelt, Md.
Bethany Downer – Bethany.Downer@esawebb.org
ESA/Webb Chief Science Communications Officer
Download full resolution images for this article from ESAWebb.org
Piercing the Dark Birthplaces of Massive Stars with Webb
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‘Digital Winglets’ for Real Time Flight Paths
Alaska Airlines Captain Bret Peyton looks at route options presented by Traffic Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR) during a test of the software at Langley Research Center. The program connects to onboard systems and runs on a tablet called an Electronic Flight Bag.Credit: David Wing Before airplanes even reach the runway, pilots must file a plan to inform air traffic controllers where they’re going and the path they are going to take. When planes are in the air, however, that plan often changes. From turbulence causing passenger discomfort and additional fuel use to unexpected weather patterns blocking the original path, pilots have to think on the fly and inform air traffic controllers of any modifications to their routes.
In the past, these changes would have to happen suddenly and with little lead time. But as airplanes have become more digitally connected, the flying machines can take advantage of the additional data they receive, and a NASA-developed technology can help pilots find the best path every time.
NASA has explored methods to improve aircraft efficiency since its inception. Among the agency’s most famous contributions are winglets, upturned vertical flanges at the ends of airplane wings that eliminate turbulence at the wingtip and significantly save fuel. Fuel efficiency is critical to future aircraft development, as it not only improves performance and the weight it can carry but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
David Wing, principal researcher of air traffic management at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, develops advanced autonomy systems for aircraft, allowing operators to directly manage flight paths in crowded skies. He noticed some of the same technology used for safe routing could also optimize routes for flights already in the air. Allowing pilots to identify a better path as soon as it’s available could save time and money.
“Air traffic control is there to keep the aircraft safely separated from other aircraft,” said Wing. “So, the trick is, when you need to change your routing, what route do you ask for, and how much will it save you?”
In this screenshot of the APiJET Digital Winglets software based on NASA technology, a route is plotted along navigational waypoints, presenting three options that would save fuel and time based on real-time information. Credit: APiJET LLC Under Wing’s lead, NASA developed Traffic-Aware Strategic Aircrew Requests (TASAR), a piece of software pilots and ground operations teams can use to find better routes in transit. TASAR uses a genetic algorithm, a machine learning system that finds the optimal answer by pitting hundreds of route changes against each other and seeing which one comes out on top. TASAR takes a map of the area and draws hundreds of lines radiating from the airplane. These lines represent potential routes the plane could take. The software whittles down every route it generates, avoiding ones that stray into no-fly zones or dangerous weather systems or get too close to other aircraft until it’s found the most efficient route the airplane can take. Then, it’s up to the pilot to take the computer’s advice. Information is constantly updated using sensors on the airplane and connections to ground-based services, which TASAR takes into account.
“The algorithms had been tested and matured already for many years in our research, so they were in pretty good shape,” Wing said. “But we had to connect this system to a real aircraft, which meant that we needed to be able to access data from the onboard avionics.”
On NASA test flights, the software worked perfectly, but for TASAR to break into more flights, commercial planes needed to be able to access large amounts of data. As it turned out, a solution was close at hand.
The company iJET originally built components that could keep planes connected to the latest information available on the ground, which often wasn’t available in the sky. After developing better antennas, the company soon began working on a new integrated computer system for airplanes to collect data and stay connected to ground-based information sources. When looking for a “killer app” for the system, the company discovered TASAR.
“We saw that NASA was getting to the conclusion of this work, and we took a business decision to pick up the baton,” said Rob Green, CEO of the company.
After being acquired by another company called Aviation Partners, the Seattle-based company was renamed APiJET in 2018 and became the first company to license TASAR from NASA. APiJET proceeded to tie the software to the in-flight computer system. The company’s version of TASAR is called Digital Winglets, named after the NASA invention.
Frontier Airlines was among the first companies to test Digital Winglets for its fleet of aircraft. In testing, the commercial implementation of NASA’s TASAR technology provided fuel savings of 2%, which adds up at airline scale. Credit: Frontier Airlines The app runs on electronic flight bags, computer devices approved for use in flight operations by the Federal Aviation Administration, most commonly Apple iPads. Green said there are no plans to integrate it directly into a cockpit instrument panel because updating an app is easier. In testing with Alaska Airlines, Green said the program saved 2% on fuel, working out to approximately 28,000 pounds of fuel per hundred flights.
“Two percent may not sound like much, but little savings can really add up at airline scale,” Green said.
Several more airlines have tested the technology, and Frontier Airlines is currently field testing for a potential deployment of Digital Winglets across its fleet. APiJET still keeps in touch with the developers at NASA to further research TASAR’s benefits and build out its commercial capabilities.
“Everybody that worked on TASAR at NASA should be really proud of their direct impact on fuel savings and carbon reduction,” Green said. “It’s a lot to wrap your head around, but it works.”
NASA has a long history of transferring technology to the private sector. The agency’s Spinoff publication profiles NASA technologies that have transformed into commercial products and services, demonstrating the broader benefits of America’s investment in its space program. Spinoff is a publication of the Technology Transfer program in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
For more information on how NASA brings space technology down to Earth, visit:
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NASA’s Deep Space Optical Comm Demo Sends, Receives First Data
NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is shown in a clean room at the Astrotech Space Operations facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 8, 2022. DSOC’s gold-capped flight laser transceiver can be seen, near center, attached to the spacecraft.NASA/Ben Smegelsky DSOC, an experiment that could transform how spacecraft communicate, has achieved ‘first light,’ sending data via laser to and from far beyond the Moon for the first time.
NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) experiment has beamed a near-infrared laser encoded with test data fromnearly 10 million miles (16 million kilometers) away – about 40 times farther than the Moon is from Earth – to the Hale Telescope at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, California. This is the farthest-ever demonstration of optical communications.
Riding aboard the recently launched Psyche spacecraft, DSOC is configured to send high-bandwidth test data to Earth during its two-year technology demonstration as Psyche travels to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California manages both DSOC and Psyche.
The tech demo achieved “first light” in the early hours of Nov. 14 after its flight laser transceiver – a cutting-edge instrument aboard Psyche capable of sending and receiving near-infrared signals – locked onto a powerful uplink laser beacon transmitted from the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory at JPL’s Table Mountain Facility near Wrightwood, California. The uplink beacon helped the transceiver aim its downlink laser back to Palomar (which is 100 miles, or 130 kilometers, south of Table Mountain) while automated systems on the transceiver and ground stations fine-tuned its pointing.
Learn more about how DSOC will be used to test high-bandwidth data transmission beyond the Moon for the first time – and how it could transform deep space exploration. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU “Achieving first light is one of many critical DSOC milestones in the coming months, paving the way toward higher-data-rate communications capable of sending scientific information, high-definition imagery, and streaming video in support of humanity’s next giant leap: sending humans to Mars,” said Trudy Kortes, director of Technology Demonstrations at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Test data also was sent simultaneously via the uplink and downlink lasers, a procedure known as “closing the link” that is a primary objective for the experiment. While the technology demonstration isn’t transmitting Psyche mission data, it works closely with the Psyche mission-support team to ensure DSOC operations don’t interfere with those of the spacecraft.
“Tuesday morning’stest was the first to fully incorporate the ground assets and flight transceiver, requiring the DSOC and Psyche operations teams to work in tandem,” said Meera Srinivasan, operations lead for DSOC at JPL. “It was a formidable challenge, and we have a lot more work to do, but for a short time, we were able to transmit, receive, and decode some data.”
Before this achievement, the project needed to check the boxes on several other milestones, from removing the protective cover for the flight laser transceiver to powering up the instrument. Meanwhile, the Psyche spacecraft is carrying out its own checkouts, including powering up its propulsion systems and testing instruments that will be used to study the asteroid Psyche when it arrives there in 2028.
First Light and First Bits
With successful first light, the DSOC team will now work on refining the systems that control the pointing of the downlink laser aboard the transceiver. Once achieved, the project can begin its demonstration of maintaining high-bandwidth data transmission from the transceiver to Palomar at various distances from Earth. This data takes the form of bits (the smallest units of data a computer can process) encoded in the laser’s photons – quantum particles of light. After a special superconducting high-efficiency detector array detects the photons, new signal-processing techniques are used to extract the data from the single photons that arrive at the Hale Telescope.
The DSOC experiment aims to demonstrate data transmission rates 10 to 100 times greater than the state-of-the-art radio frequency systems used by spacecraft today. Both radio and near-infrared laser communications utilize electromagnetic waves to transmit data, but near-infrared light packs the data into significantly tighter waves, enabling ground stations to receive more data. This will help future human and robotic exploration missions and support higher-resolution science instruments.
The flight laser transceiver operations team for NASA’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) technology demonstration works in the Psyche mission support area at JPL in the early hours of Nov. 14, when the project achieved “first light.” NASA/JPL-Caltech DSOC ground laser transmitter operators pose for a photo at the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory at JPL’s Table Mountain Facility near Wrightwood, California, shortly after the technology demonstration achieved “first light” on Nov. 14.NASA/JPL-Caltech “Optical communication is a boon for scientists and researchers who always want more from their space missions, and will enable human exploration of deep space,” said Dr. Jason Mitchell, director of the Advanced Communications and Navigation Technologies Division within NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program. “More data means more discoveries.”
While optical communication has been demonstrated in low Earth orbit and out to the Moon, DSOC is the first test in deep space. Like using a laser pointer to track a moving dime from a mile away, aiming a laser beam over millions of miles requires extremely precise “pointing.”
The demonstration also needs to compensate for the time it takes for light to travel from the spacecraft to Earth over vast distances: At Psyche’s farthest distance from our planet, DSOC’s near-infrared photons will take about 20 minutes to travel back (they took about 50 seconds to travel from Psyche to Earth during the Nov. 14 test). In that time, both spacecraft and planet will have moved, so the uplink and downlink lasers need to adjust for the change in location. “Achieving first light is a tremendous achievement. The ground systems successfully detected the deep space laser photons from DSOC’s flight transceiver aboard Psyche,” said Abi Biswas, project technologist for DSOC at JPL. “And we were also able to send some data, meaning we were able to exchange ‘bits of light’ from and to deep space.”
More About the Mission
DSOC is the latest in a series of optical communication demonstrations funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program within the agency’s Space Operations Mission Directorate.
The Psyche mission is led by Arizona State University. JPL is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration and test, and mission operations. Psyche is the 14th mission selected as part of NASA’s Discovery Program under the Science Mission Directorate, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center, managed the launch service. Maxar Technologies in Palo Alto, California, provided the high-power solar electric propulsion spacecraft chassis.
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This animation shows a possible layout of NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope’s High Latitude Time-Domain Survey tiling pattern. The observing program will be designed by a community process, but it is expected to cover five square degrees – a region of the sky as large as 25 full moons – and pierce far into space, back to when the universe was about 500 million years old, less than 4 percent of its current age of 13.8 billion years.Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will pair space-based observations with a broad field of view to unveil the dynamic cosmos in ways that have never been possible before.
“Roman will work in tandem with NASA observatories such as the James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory, which are designed to zoom in on rare transient objects once they’ve been identified, but seldom if ever discover them,” said Julie McEnery, Roman’s senior project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Roman’s much larger field of view will reveal many such objects that were previously unknown. And since we’ve never had an observatory like this scanning the cosmos before, we could even find entirely new classes of objects and events.”
The mission’s High Latitude Time-Domain Survey is well-designed to discover a particular type of exploding star that astronomers can use to trace the evolution of the universe and probe possible explanations for its accelerated expansion. And since this survey will repeatedly observe the same large vista of space, scientists will also see sporadic events like stellar corpses colliding and stars being swept into black holes.
The survey will look beyond our galaxy to observe the same patch of sky approximately every five days for two years. Stitching these observations together like stop-motion animation will create movies that will reveal a wealth of transient events.
NASA’s upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will see thousands of exploding stars called supernovae across vast stretches of time and space. One kind, called type Ia, serves as “standard candles” because they peak at about the same intrinsic brightness. Scientists can use them to measure distances and trace cosmic expansion over time, providing a window onto the universe’s distant past. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab Retreating Stellar Sparks
Astronomers will hunt through all this data for a special kind of exploding star called type Ia supernovae. These phenomena originate from certain binary star systems that contain at least one white dwarf – the small, hot core remnant of a Sun-like star. In some cases, the dwarf may siphon material from its companion. This triggers a runaway nuclear reaction that ultimately detonates the thief. Astronomers have also found evidence supporting another scenario, involving two white dwarfs that spiral toward each other until they merge. If their combined mass is high enough, they, too, may produce a type Ia supernova.
Since these explosions each peak at a similar, known intrinsic brightness, astronomers can use them to determine how far away they are by simply measuring how bright they appear. Astronomers will use Roman to study the spectrum of light from these supernovae to find out how rapidly they appear to be moving away from us due to the expansion of space.
By comparing how fast type Ia supernovae at different distances are receding, scientists will trace cosmic expansion over time. This will help us understand whether and how dark energy – the unexplained pressure thought to be speeding up the universe’s expansion – has changed throughout time. Using these and other Roman measurements should also help clear up mismatched measurements of the Hubble constant, which is the universe’s current expansion rate.
“Roman will paint a more vivid picture of our universe’s past and present, giving us new clues about its possible fate,” said Rebekah Hounsell, a research scientist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Goddard, who is exploring ways to optimize Roman’s High Latitude Time-Domain Survey. “Its findings could reshape our understanding of the cosmos.”
This time-lapse of supernova 2018gv in galaxy NGC 2525 compresses nearly one-year of observations from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope into a few seconds. The supernova initially outshines the brightest stars in the galaxy before fading into obscurity. NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, currently under construction, could capture such events from start to finish and alert other telescopes, such as the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, for even more detailed observations. Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Riess (STScI/JHU) and the SH0ES team; acknowledgment: M. Zamani (ESA/Hubble) Fleeting Cosmic Wonders
Because of the way this survey will observe the cosmos, it will also spot other rare phenomena. Through Roman, we will witness the birth of new black holes that form when neutron stars – the cores of exploded stars that weren’t quite massive enough to collapse to form black holes on their own – merge. These titanic events create ripples in the fabric of space-time and brilliant kilonova explosions.
The mission is also expected to reveal several dozen tidal disruption events, which happen when a star venturing too close to a black hole is shredded by the black hole’s extreme gravity. The stellar shrapnel generates a huge amount of light as it speeds toward the black hole. Roman will pick up these flares of energy to learn how black holes affect their surroundings.
The survey will also allow astronomers to explore variable objects, like active galaxies whose cores each host an extremely bright quasar. A quasar is a brilliant beacon of intense light powered by a supermassive black hole. The black hole voraciously feeds on infalling matter that unleashes a torrent of radiation. Roman’s steady gaze will help astronomers study how and why these outbursts fluctuate in brightness.
And by finding hundreds of faint, faraway quasars, Roman will also allow scientists to probe the period of reionization. During this cosmic epoch, scientists think intense ultraviolet light from quasars stripped electrons from atoms and turned them into ions. This transition ushered in “cosmic dawn,” as the universe went from being mostly opaque to transparent, allowing visible and ultraviolet light to travel freely.
“This Roman survey will provide a treasure trove of data for astronomers to comb through, enabling more open-ended cosmic exploration than is typically possible,” McEnery said. “We may serendipitously discover entirely new things we don’t yet know to look for.”
The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is managed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, with participation by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech/IPAC in Southern California, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and a science team comprising scientists from various research institutions. The primary industrial partners are Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado; L3Harris Technologies in Melbourne, Florida; and Teledyne Scientific & Imaging in Thousand Oaks, California.
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NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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