The newest, most powerful James Webb Space Telescope is recovering from a malfunction. All planned scientific observations of the universe were blocked due to a detected malfunction on board. Mission staff spent about two weeks dealing with the damage, which occurred on December 7. The incident became known only now, when the work of the telescope was fully restored, according to NASA.
“The observatory and instruments are in good condition, and nothing threatened them. JWST’s on-board fault management system performed as expected, so the equipment was not damaged,” NASA officials wrote.
According to NASA, the problems began on Dec. 7 when a software failure occurred in JWST’s orientation control system, which shields the observatory from the sun. They put the telescope into safe mode — the state in which the spacecraft shuts down non-essential systems and waits quietly while engineers identify and fix the problem. James Webb has been in safe mode for several days. Normal operations resumed on Tuesday, December 20, just in time for the telescope to celebrate its first anniversary in space.
The first anniversary
This Sunday, December 25, James Webb will celebrate its first year in space. Meanwhile the observatory’s science activities began in July, after JWST spent nearly six months reaching its observation point, cooling and calibrating its instruments.
Over the past 12 months, several incidents have occurred with the telescope. In May, a collision with a micrometeorite damaged one of the mirrors, and in the fall, the observatory’s mid-infrared instrument (MIRI) briefly malfunctioned, blocking one of its four observing modes. However, the recent problem appears to be the first to halt all scientific operations at the observatory. Fortunately, the engineers discovered and corrected the malfunction in time, and scientific work continued at its usual pace.
We previously reported how a hidden treasure was found in James Webb’s first image.