Astronauts install new camera on Hubble

May 15th, 2009 - 6:27 am ICT by IANS  

Hubble Space Telescope Washington, May 14 (DPA) US astronauts Thursday installed a new camera on the Hubble Space Telescope in the first of a series of spacewalks to upgrade the ageing instrument.
In the seven-hour, 20-minute long spacewalk astronauts John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel replaced Hubble’s camera with a more advanced model. The Wide Field Planetary Camera 3 will allow astronomers to see deeper into space and to take images in the three

regions of the light spectrum - ultraviolet, visible and near infrared.

The astronauts also replaced a computer that malfunctioned last year. The so-called Science Instrument Command and Data Handling Unit controls the telescope’s science instruments and formats information to be sent back to scientists on Earth.

Other smaller tasks got the Hubble ready for future work. The spacewalkers experienced only a few minor hitches with some tight bolts, pushing the spacewalk longer than its planned six-and-a-half hours.

“We got the Hubble and gave Hubble a hug, but in traditional Hubble fashion it threw us a few curves,” Grunsfeld, a Hubble veteran on his third trip to the telescope, said after completing the work.

It is the first of five planned spacewalks in as many days to add two new instruments, repair two others and replace other hardware in frequently delicate operations to Hubble.

On Friday, spacewalkers Mike Massimino and Michael Good will remove and replace three pairs of gyroscopes that keep the telescope aligned and pointed toward areas being examined by astronomers.

The crew Wednesday used the robotic arm on the space shuttle Atlantis to capture Hubble ahead of the work.

Scientists say the upgrades, which US space agency NASA hopes will extend Hubble’s life span until at least 2014, will continue to provide clues about the origin and nature of the universe.

Since its launch in 1990, Hubble has helped scientists to place the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years, learn that black holes are at the centre of most galaxies, monitor planetary formation and discover that the universe is expanding at an ever-faster pace.

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