NASA sends out Hubble glitch distress call: The key is looking up.

NASA announced this morning that a strange issue is sending scientists scrambling to figure out what it is. Unfortunately, it’s another kind of crisis — Hubble’s classic way of communicating is by looking up.

They call it the twist. In a nutshell, the telescope starts looping around and back around and comes back again.

Today: When the telescope goes through this time, it looks like this:

“When this happens, we don’t understand what is happening,” said Wendy Freedman, the lead author of the report. “We don’t know where we are, but it looks very familiar.”

At first, the telescope began running on purely internal logic, but this leads to confusion. The spacecraft turns on a little after 5 a.m. ET and then off again for five hours. Goddard’s remote control tower fires up the power supply for the telescope — checking to make sure the computer and data server are working fine — at 9:19 a.m. ET. Everything runs OK until 5:50 p.m. ET, when the telescope heads back to a stationary location.

At 5:50 p.m., the telescope returns to a very familiar spot.

Then it disappears — for more than three hours. Here’s the telescope:

It creeps its way back to its initial location and then resumes the looping motion. Then, at 6:31 p.m., it again moves:

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