Written by By Brian Hughes, CNN
In September 2012, the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a new, faint star. On Thursday, the telescope shut down for the seventh time after problems with its batteries. NASA and the US Air Force issued a statement that the Hubble team “are targeting a return to service flight using the next-generation Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 in 2015.”
The Space Telescope Science Institute, which manages Hubble for NASA, provided no specific details about the nature of the problem. But it stated, “The spacecraft’s scientific instruments continue to operate and collect high-quality data.”
Hubble & the Double Helix: An unusual structure seen by Hubble’s most recent camera
The last time the telescope shut down for two and a half years was in 2009 when it detected a fault in one of its two Advanced Camera for Surveys instruments.
That incident cost the space telescope $686 million, a chunk of its $1.5 billion price tag when it was launched in 1990.
NASA still insists Hubble is essential to science, despite its recurring, uneven outages. In 2014, an orbital inspection revealed that the telescope’s instrument was out of order, but NASA scientists have continued to work in its wake, discovering previously unobserved star clusters.
“Hubble continues to fuel understanding of the solar system,” said Leila Repiko of the Space Telescope Science Institute. “It has revolutionized our knowledge of the universe, finding new planets and a dozen new celestial objects from our own home galaxy.”
Hubble launched in 1990 and has revolutionized our understanding of the universe
Despite Hubble’s eight decade long life, it has yet to unravel the mysteries of the universe.
Hubble has located about 35,000 confirmed exoplanets and another 200,000 are suspected, finding far-flung planets orbiting stars that are at least twice as big as our sun. Astronomers also have discovered a dozen new celestial objects. Hubble has discovered more new stars than any other astronomical instrument.
Last month, NASA launched the James Webb Space Telescope on a record-breaking flight to Earth orbit. Once it reaches its planned orbit about five years from now, it will not only photograph the universe but also listen for alien radio communications.