Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Curses! Foiled again.

If you remember from a the few posts ago, I spent much of the past 2 weeks writing proposals to use the Hubble Space Telescope. So, you can imagine the foul mood I was in yesterday when NASA announced that Hubble's main camera quit working Saturday morning, only 11 hours and 26 minutes after the deadline on proposals. And, of course, this is the camera I was proposing to use in my work.

The camera is almost fully dead due to problems with the electronics. It may (or may not) be possible to fix it when astronauts come to repair the Hubble in about 18 months, but they have a long list of things to do already, and the astronauts will be installing a camera that is almost as good as the dead camera in some respects, and better than the dead camera in other respects.

The camera that died, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), was truly the workhorse instrument of Hubble. At the end of the day on Friday, there were 747 proposals to use the Hubble over the next year; 498 of those were to use ACS.

NASA has decided to re-open the system to proposals in order to try and fill the gap left by the loss of ACS. I might be able to change my proposal to use another, older camera that isn't as powerful as ACS. It has a smaller field of view, and is much less efficient at detecting light. But, given the choice between that and none, I'll take the older camera.

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