Hubble in trouble again as 'fantastic camera' shuts down

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The newest, most high-tech camera on the Hubble space telescope stopped working last weekend and two of its main capabilities - gaining ultra-deep views of the universe and detailed data on individual stars - are unlikely to recover, Nasa officials said yesterday.

The failure occurred when the telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys, which photographs huge expanses of sky, shut down after a fuse failed because of a short circuit.

Two of the instrument's three channels - its wide-field and high-resolution channels - were unlikely to be restored, engineers said. The ACS has taken the clearest pictures ever seen of the cosmos but will only be functioning again when Hubble receives a new camera during a servicing mission by a Space Shuttle in 2008.

"Science will continue but it's a great loss, no doubt," Mario Livio, of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which manages Hubble, said. "This was a fantastic camera that just produced incredible science."

The ACS has been the most in-demand instrument on Hubble since it was installed in 2002.