Image: Hubble
In a picture from 2002, the space shuttle Columbia's robot arm moves the Hubble Space Telescope out of the payload bay, at the end of its most recent servicing mission.
updated 10/13/2006 6:12:30 PM ET 2006-10-13T22:12:30

Debris stuck in a switch is believed to have caused a voltage drop that shut down the Hubble Space Telescope's main camera for the second time this year, the operators of the orbiting observatory announced Friday.

Power was restored to one of three detectors on the Advanced Camera for Surveys after an electrical relay suspected as the cause of the shutdown was toggled on and off. NASA engineers believe the debris interfered with the electrical contact, the Space Telescope Science Institute said in a statement.

The institute said the performance of the detector will be monitored for the rest of the week. Observations will resume next week if its performance remains stable.

The Baltimore-based institute coordinates use of the orbiting telescope, launched in 1990 by the space shuttle, which has revolutionized astronomy with some of the most striking images ever seen in space.

NASA has scheduled a meeting Oct. 27 on the safety of a shuttle mission to service the Hubble to keep it working until a replacement is launched in 2011. The agency canceled a previously scheduled Hubble mission following the loss of the shuttle Columbia in 2003. That decision prompted an outcry from scientists and the public and forced NASA to reconsider.

The Hubble's main camera consists of three electronic cameras, filters and dispersers that detect light from the ultraviolet to the near infrared. Installed in 2002, it has given the clearest pictures yet of galaxies forming in the very early universe.

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