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Hubble's main camera dies a death

Advanced camera shall survey no more

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Hubble's main camera, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACFS), has shut down following an electrical failure.

The camera went offline last year after a problem with its power supply. That was eventually resolved, but this time most of the the damage looks permanent: NASA says only one of the ACFS's three sub-cameras is likely to be restored.

A power failure on Saturday sent the whole observatory into safe mode. NASA engineers managed to reboot the telescope, but without its ACFS functions.

The ACFS was installed during a 2002 servicing mission. Its three cameras saw into space in the visible, ultraviolet, and infrared spectra, and its installation effectively doubled Hubble's field of view. The camera's three channels took in wide field and high-resolution pictures, as well as a dedicated channel for probing our own solar system.

NASA speculates that it will be able to reboot this last channel - the solar blind - but says the wide field and high resolution channels are almost certain to remain offline.

Since its installation, the camera has sent back some truly stunning images, and has made a great contribution to science. It has been the most in demand instrument on the observatory, NASA says.

Hubble is long overdue its next service, and is scheduled to be attended by astronauts in September 2008. The mission will install the new Wide Field Camera-3, and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), and carry out repairs to the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.

The crew will also install new batteries and gyroscopes. ®

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