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Hubble Monkey Head Nebula
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photo courtesy of NASA

One of NASA’s most famous telescopes, Hubble, hit a rough patch last month but is now back on track!

The Hubble Space Telescope began experiencing a problem on Oct. 5, when one of its gyroscopes failed and a back-up gyroscope sent back abnormal readings. The telescope went into a protective safe mode as scientists worked to solve the problem. Engineers were able to TROUBLESHOOT the problem with the back-up gyro and Hubble returned to normal operations on October 26.

Hubble actually has a total of six gyroscopes. The telescope needs to have three functional gyroscopes to work at maximum efficiency, and two Hubble gyros had previously stopped working before the October 5 failure.

The Hubble Space Telescope is actually a joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). Hubble’s job is to orbit Earth above the atmosphere and send images back to Earth. It has sent back hundreds of thousands of images, which has helped scientists determine the age of the universe and many other mysteries from the space around us.

NASA says that Hubble was the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo turned his self-made telescope toward the sky in 1610. One of the reasons Hubble has been so successful is its location. Hubble is positioned above the atmosphere, far above rain clouds and light pollution, so it gives scientists a better view than ground-based telescopes.

Hubble, which launched into orbit in 1990 aboard the space shuttle Discovery, is one of NASA's most successful and long-lasting science missions. The initial images Hubble sent back were blurry, so astronauts went to fix its primary mirror in 1993. Astronauts have serviced the telescope four times since then, most recently in 2009 when all six gyroscopes were replaced. 

NASA expects Hubble to continue operating into the 2020s and providing amazing discoveries along the way. Even if another gyro fails, NASA explains that the telescope can continue doing Hubble-quality science, just in a smaller fraction of the sky.

Third-grader Makes the Find of a Lifetime!

Saga and her sword
photo courtesy of Andrew Vanecek

TÅNNÖ, Sweden—An 8-year-old girl just had a summer she and her family will never forget. Every summer, Saga Vanecek and her family enjoy a cabin by a lake called Vidöstern in Southern Sweden.

But a record hot summer had really lowered the water level of the lake. On July 15, Saga was playing on the beach with her friend when her dad, Andy Vanecek, asked her to get a buoy from the cabin. He wanted to warn boats that the lake bottom around the buoy was very shallow.

As she waded into the cool water, Saga decided to make the most of it. “I was crawling along the bottom of the lake on my arms and knees, looking for stones to skim (also known as stone skipping) when my hand and knee felt something long and hard buried in the clay and sand,” Saga recalled to The Guardian in October. “I pulled it out and saw that it was different…one end had a point, and the other had a handle, so I pointed it up to the sky…and called out, ‘Daddy, I’ve found a sword!’ I felt like a warrior.”

But this delicate, rusting and muddy sword is far from ordinary. While experts need to study it much more carefully, archaeologists believe it’s most likely a Viking sword and estimate that it’s between 1,000 and 1,500 years old. It is a very important ARTIFACT scientifically, historically and culturally to the area.

The ancient sword was handed over to a nearby museum, which asked Saga and her family to keep the find a secret. The museum wanted to search the lake to find more artifacts before they announced Saga’s big discovery! While that area of the lake didn’t turn out to be the Viking burial site the museum had hoped for, workers did discover a brooch from around AD 300–400.

According to legend, the Lady of the Lake is the one who gave King Arthur the famed blade Excalibur. So locals are having fun calling Saga the “Queen of Sweden!”

November 2018