Hubble Space Telescope Sent Well-Wishes As Software Blip Puts It in "Safe Mode"

The Hubble Space Telescope has received an outpouring of well-wishes after it was placed into "safe mode" following a software error.

The spacecraft's Twitter page issued the update on Sunday, claiming the incident occurred at around 4 a.m. EST earlier that morning.

The post said: "All science systems appear normal and Hubble is safe and stable. The team is working plans to safely return it to normal science operations."

At ~4:00 a.m. EST on Sunday, the Hubble Space Telescope went into safe mode due to an onboard software error. All science systems appear normal and Hubble is safe and stable. The team is working plans to safely return it to normal science operations.

— Hubble (@NASAHubble) March 8, 2021

Almost 100 Twitter users had responded to the post as of March 8 to express condolences and "get well soon" messages.

Nancy Sinatra, U.S. singer and daughter of the late vocalist Frank Sinatra, tweeted: "Stay safe, Hubble."

Luca Maltagliati, an editor at the scientific journal Nature Astronomy, said: "Every time something like that happens [it] makes me think that there'll be one time when Hubble won't come back from safe mode, and that makes me feel very anxious."

While some voiced concern, others were optimistic that the procedure was standard and that Hubble would be back online soon.

Tim Hamilton, a professor of astrophysics at Shawnee State University, expressed optimism about the condition of the telescope and downplayed the severity of safe mode.

He tweeted: "This doesn't necessarily mean anything bad for Hubble's long-term performance. Safe mode keeps it from getting damaged while the ground teams fix the problems."

Thomas Burghardt, editor at NASASpaceFlight, said the safe mode precaution is "not an uncommon occurrence in spaceflight. Teams on the ground will hopefully resume observations soon."

The Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode early this morning. Not an uncommon occurance in spaceflight... teams on the ground will hopefully resume observations soon.

— Thomas Burghardt (@TGMetsFan98) March 8, 2021

NASA has not provided any details on the nature of the software error or what may have caused it.

Hubble is a telescope that was launched into orbit around the Earth by NASA in 1990 on board the space shuttle Discovery. It can be seen below.

Hubble Space Telescope
A NASA photo shows the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting the Earth in 1997. The telescope orbits the Earth about once every 95 minutes. NASA/Getty

It is an optical telescope, meaning it mainly observes visible light as opposed to radio waves or other forms of electromagnetic radiation like some other telescopes do. Hubble captures images using two mirrors on board that are 94.5 inches and 12 inches in diameter.

Hubble has made a significant contribution to astronomy since it began operating over 30 years ago, peering into deep space and observing distant objects such as stars and galaxies tens of billions of light years away.

NASA said astronomers have used Hubble data to publish over 15,000 scientific papers. It generates around 10 terabytes worth of data every year.

One of the most famous images ever captured by Hubble dates back to 1995, when scientists pointed the telescope at a small and seemingly empty patch of black sky and made it stare at the same spot for 10 days to take in as much light as possible.

Scientists looked at the image afterwards and discovered thousands of brightly-colored galaxies so far away that light from them took billions of years to reach Earth. The image is known as the Hubble Deep Field. Another, more recent version known as the Hubble Ultra Deep Field is seen below.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field
A view of nearly 10,000 galaxies seen in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field composite image, released by NASA in 2004. It is made up of a million one-second exposures. NASA/Getty