The Hubble Space Telescope is operating without its best camera after a hardware problem forced it to shut down.
NASA said the camera stopped working on Tuesday, but three other scientific instruments are still operating and capable of continuing with the celestial observations.
The news came when it emerged that Hubble discovered the brightest quasar ever seen at the beginning of the universe, with the brightness of about 600 trillion suns.
The newly discovered quasar, cataloged as J043947.08 + 163415.7, is so old that light began its journey when the universe was only a billion years old. There is hope that this may provide insight into the birth of galaxies.
A quasar is the extremely bright nucleus of an active galaxy and its powerful brightness is created by the incredible amounts of energy released by the gas falling towards the supermassive black hole at its center.
Tuesday's hardware crash happened on the telescope's field-field camera, which was installed by astronauts on a spacecraft in 2009. The camera has backup electronics that can be triggered, if necessary, according to NASA.
The camera has captured stunning images of stars, galaxies dating back in time and aiding in deep surveys of the sky. He also studied objects in the solar system, uncovering some of the tiny moons around Pluto, as well as a 14th moon around Neptune. It takes photos in visible and ultraviolet light, as well as in the near infrared.
Orbiting 350 miles (560km) above Earth, Hubble was launched in 1990 and visited by space shuttle astronauts for repairs and upgrades five times.
It recently stopped running for three weeks due to a problem with its gyroscopes.
This is the first time the camera has acted like this, said Cheryl Gundy, a spokeswoman for the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore who deals with the telescope's scientific operations.
"NASA is trying to get the team together to try to diagnose the problem," Gundy said.
"We would like to have Hubble back and working as fast as possible, and NASA is making that happen," even with the partial shutdown of the government, she said.