An issue with NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, formerly called the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer, has forced it to suspend science operations and enter safe mode while the team investigates.
The space-based telescope isn't one of the agency's best-known missions. But since it plays an important role in the study of an astronomical phenomenon called gamma-ray bursts, we can say that it has a very important place in the scientific world.
Swift Observatory stopped working due to hardware failure
The Swift Observatory telescope experienced an issue earlier this week that is suspected to be related to faulty hardware. NASA conveyed the situation in a short post with the following words:
On the evening of Tuesday, January 18, NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory entered safe mode, suspending scientific observations. The mission team is investigating a possible failure of one of the spacecraft's reaction wheels as the cause.
Reaction wheels are components that allow the spacecraft to rotate to a very precise degree and help the telescope look in one direction. This is important for the task of studying gamma-ray bursts, as Swift requires a high degree of precision. Explosions can last from a few milliseconds to a few minutes. Therefore Swift should be able to observe these events quickly before they disappear.
To see if the fault was indeed with the reaction wheels, the team turned it off so they could investigate further. The good news is that other hardware parts don't seem to have any problems. So, if necessary, the team believes they can continue to operate the observatory with five of its six wheels working.
Touching on this issue in its statement, NASA said: "The team is working to restore science operations using the five reaction wheels. All five remaining wheels are working as expected. This is the first time in Swift's 17 years of operation that a reaction wheel has failed.
What do you think about this subject? Don't forget to share your views with us in the comments!