Monday, November 30, 2009

WISE Snug in Its Nose Cone

Monday, November 30, 2009
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NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer has been wrapped in the outer nose cone, or "fairing," that will protect it during its scheduled Dec. 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The fairing will split open like a clamshell about five minutes after launch. The spacecraft will circle Earth over the poles, scanning the entire sky one-and-a-half times in nine months. The mission will uncover hidden cosmic objects, including the coolest stars, dark asteroids and the most luminous galaxies.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The principal investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

More information is online at http://www.nasa.gov/wise and http://wise.astro.ucla.edu .

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Shadow and Spokes

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A moon's shadow strikes Saturn's rings near bright spokes on the B ring near the center of this Cassini image taken about one month after the planet's August 2009 equinox.

Mimas, the moon casting the shadow, is not shown. To learn more about the ghostly radial markings called spokes, see PIA11144 and PIA08288. Spokes appear bright when they are viewed at phase, or Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, angles higher than about 45 degrees. The phase angle in this image is 106 degrees.

The novel illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun's angle to the ringplane, significantly darkens the rings, and causes out-of-plane structures to look anomalously bright and cast shadows across the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. Before and after equinox, Cassini's cameras have spotted not only the predictable shadows of some of Saturn's moons (see PIA11657), but also the shadows of newly revealed vertical structures in the rings themselves (see PIA11665).

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from about 8 degrees above the ringplane.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 9, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 2.9 million kilometers (1.8 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 106 degrees. Image scale is 17 kilometers (11 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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Bright Sun and Crescent Earth from the Space Station

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This was just one more breathtaking view from the International Space Station. The Sun, a crescent Earth, and the long arm of a solar panel were all visible outside a window when the Space Shuttle Atlantis visited the orbiting outpost last week. Reflections from the window and hexagonal lens flares from the camera are superposed. The space shuttle landed Friday after a successful 10 day mission to expand and resupply the ISS. Numbered STS-129, the space shuttle mission returned astronaut Nicole Stott to Earth from her stay on the ISS as a Flight Engineer in the Expedition 20 and21 crews.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tour NASA's New Climate Reel

Sunday, November 29, 2009
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We’re less than two weeks away from the United Nation’s long awaited Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. In anticipation of the event, NASA has compiled a climate resource reel that highlights ten of its most compelling climate videos and visualizations.

Video topics range from a 3-D tour of the Earth’s rapidly changing cryosphere, and the unexpected role that honey bees can play as climate data collectors, to NASA’s efforts to understand the ozone layer.

Two of the videos offer details about NASA's new climate satellite Glory. One of them discusses Glory's Total Irradiance Monitor, a sensor that will help monitor the sun's fluctuations. The other -- titled Hello Crud -- delves into the perplexing world of airborne particles called aerosols.

You can see all ten of the top picks at NASA’s Global Climate Change website. Additional climate-related videos and animations are available through NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio.

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Winter Frosted Mars Dunes : Big Pic

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NASA's High Resolution Science Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has changed our view of the Red Planet. With mind-blowing clarity, this hi-tech instrument can even keep an eye on the Mars rovers as they roll across the regolith.

The HiRISE image gallery has become one of the most comprehensive and visually stunning chronicles of planetary exploration available online and it is continually updated with freshly-processed images of various Martian landscapes. Although the mission is currently recovering after a glitch in August, forcing controllers to switch the satellite into "safe mode," new HiRISE images are always being processed.

In this example, dunes within a Mars crater are detailed (to a resolution of 50 cm/pixel). The image was taken when the southern hemisphere was in the depths of winter in November 2006. The ripples in the dunes are caused by winds shaping the lose dust and sand. The bright areas are either water or carbon dioxide ice frosting the east-facing slopes of the dunes (in the shade from the sun). The darker areas are where sunlight has heated the surface, melting the ice.

For context, a full-resolution overview of the region is available.


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Ancient Layered Hills on Mars

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Is this a picture of Mars or Earth? Oddly enough, it is a picture of Mars. What may appear to some as a terrestrial coastline is in fact a formation of ancient layered hills and wind-blown sand on Mars. The above-pictured region spans about three kilometers in Schiaparelli Crater. What created the layers of sediment is still a topic of research. Viable hypotheses include ancient epochs of deposit either from running water or wind-blown sand. Winds and sandstorms have smoothed and eroded the structures more recently. The "water" that appears near the bottom is actually dark colored sand. The image was taken with the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft that operated around Mars from 1996-2006 and returned over 200,000 images.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Annapurna Star Trails

Saturday, November 28, 2009
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In myth, Atlas holds up the heavens. But in this moonlit mountainscape, peaks of the Himalayan Annapurna Range appear to prop up the sky as seen from Ghandruk, Nepal. From left to right the three main peaks are Annapurna South (7,219 meters), Hiunchuli (6,441 metes), and Machapuchare (6,995 meters). Of course the mountains are moving not the stars, the Earth's rotation about its axis causing the concentric star trails recorded in the time exposure. Positioned above Annapurna South, the North Celestial Pole is easily identified as the point at the center of all the star trail arcs. The star Polaris, also known as the North Star, made the very short and bright arc closest to the North Celestial Pole.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Shadows Above and Below

Friday, November 27, 2009
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The shadows of two moons appear on Saturn, above and below the plane of the planet's rings.

North on Saturn is up in this image, and the shadow of Dione (1123 kilometers, 698 miles across) can be seen south of the planet's equator. The smaller shadow of Mimas (396 kilometers, 246 miles across) is north of the equator. Dione and Mimas both have orbits that are slightly inclined in relation to the planet's equatorial plane, so, depending upon the orientation of their orbits, their shadows may appear north or south of Saturn's equator. The moons themselves do not appear in this image.

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from about 1 degree above the ringplane. Scale in the original image was 100 kilometers (62 miles) per pixel. The image has been magnified by a factor of 1.5 and contrast-enhanced to aid visibility.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Oct. 15, 2009 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 752 nanometers. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 899,000 kilometers (558,000 miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 65 degrees.

The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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The Way Home

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Seen over the Mediterranean Sea, near the Algerian coast, the space shuttle Atlantis is featured in this image photographed by the Expedition 21 crew on the International Space Station soon after the shuttle and station began their post-undocking separation. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred at 4:53 a.m. EST on Nov. 25, 2009.

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New Report Provides Update on Recent Climate Changes

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A new global scientific synthesis report prepared by 26 of the world's top climate scientists, including JPL research scientist Eric Rignot and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center researcher Robert Bindschadler, concludes that several important aspects of climate change are occurring at the high end of, or even beyond the expectations of just a few years ago. The report, "The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science," documents key findings in climate change science since December 2005. That was the cutoff for scientific inputs used to prepare the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007.

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Fermi Telescope Peers Deep into Microquasar

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NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has made the first unambiguous detection of high-energy gamma-rays from an enigmatic binary system known as Cygnus X-3. The system pairs a hot, massive star with a compact object -- either a neutron star or a black hole -- that blasts twin radio-emitting jets of matter into space at more than half the speed of light.

Astronomers call these systems microquasars. Their properties -- strong emission across a broad range of wavelengths, rapid brightness changes, and radio jets -- resemble miniature versions of distant galaxies (called quasars and blazars) whose emissions are thought to be powered by enormous black holes.

"Cygnus X-3 is a genuine microquasar and it's the first for which we can prove high-energy gamma-ray emission," said Stéphane Corbel at Paris Diderot University in France.

The system, first detected in 1966 as among the sky's strongest X-ray sources, was also one of the earliest claimed gamma-ray sources. Efforts to confirm those observations helped spur the development of improved gamma-ray detectors, a legacy culminating in the Large Area Telescope (LAT) aboard Fermi.

At the center of Cygnus X-3 lies a massive Wolf-Rayet star. With a surface temperature of 180,000 degrees F, or about 17 times hotter than the sun, the star is so hot that its mass bleeds into space in the form of a powerful outflow called a stellar wind. "In just 100,000 years, this fast, dense wind removes as much mass from the Wolf-Rayet star as our sun contains," said Robin Corbet at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Every 4.8 hours, a compact companion embedded in a disk of hot gas wheels around the star. "This object is most likely a black hole, but we can't yet rule out a neutron star," Corbet noted.

Fermi's LAT detects changes in Cygnus X-3's gamma-ray output related to the companion's 4.8-hour orbital motion. The brightest gamma-ray emission occurs when the disk is on the far side of its orbit. "This suggests that the gamma rays arise from interactions between rapidly moving electrons above and below the disk and the star's ultraviolet light," Corbel explained.

When ultraviolet photons strike particles moving at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light, the photons gain energy and become gamma rays. "The process works best when an energetic electron already heading toward Earth suffers a head-on collision with an ultraviolet photon," added Guillaume Dubus at the Laboratory for Astrophysics in Grenoble, France. "And this occurs most often when the disk is on the far side of its orbit."

Through processes not fully understood, some of the gas falling toward Cygnus X-3's compact object instead rushes outward in a pair of narrow, oppositely directed jets. Radio observations clock gas motion within these jets at more than half the speed of light.

Between Oct. 11 and Dec. 20, 2008, and again between June 8 and Aug. 2, 2009, Cygnus X-3 was unusually active. The team found that outbursts in the system's gamma-ray emission preceded flaring in the radio jet by roughly five days, strongly suggesting a relationship between the two.

The findings, published today in the electronic edition of Science, will provide new insight into how high-energy particles become accelerated and how they move through the jets.

Related Links:

› Fermi Telescope Caps First Year With Glimpse of Space-Time
› Gamma-Rays from High-Mass X-Ray Binaries

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Crew Given "Go" for Payload Bay Door Closing

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At 5:52 a.m. EST, STS-129 entry Flight Director Bryan Lunney and his entry team of flight controllers gave space shuttle Atlantis Commander Charles Hobaugh a "go" to close the payload bay doors. Shortly, Atlantis will transition to the entry software program. The crew members will begin suiting up in their launch and entry suits at 7:14 a.m. and strap into their seats at 7:37 a.m. A "go-no go" call for the 8:37 a.m. deorbit burn is expected at 8:17 a.m.

Weather conditions at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility are observed "go" and forecast "go" for the predicted landing time of 9:44 a.m. EST. NASA Flight Crew Operations Director Brent Jett is flying weather reconnaissance flights at Kennedy and reports the conditions are as predicted. Capcom Chris Ferguson told Hobaugh, "Really good conditions down here."

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The Jets of NGC 1097

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Enigmatic spiral galaxy NGC 1097 lies about 45 million light-years away in the southern constellation Fornax. The small companion galaxy, just below and left of center, that seems to be wrapped in its spiral arms, is not NGC 1097's most peculiar feature though. Instead, This very deep exposure shows hints of faint, mysterious jets, most easily seen to extend well beyond the bright arms toward the lower right. In fact, four faint jets are ultimately recognized in optical images of NGC 1097. The jets trace an X centered on the galaxy's nucleus, but could be fossil trails left over from the capture of a much smaller galaxy in the large spiral's ancient past. A Seyfert galaxy, NGC 1097's nucleus also harbors a massive black hole.

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Iapetus' Terrain

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Iapetus shows off its puzzling light and dark terrain.

Scientists continue to investigate the nature of this moon's surface. See PIA08384 to learn more. Lit terrain seen here is on the Saturn-facing side of Iapetus (1471 kilometers, 914 miles across). North on Iapetus is up and rotated 8 degrees to the left. Scale in the original image was 7 kilometers (5 miles) per pixel. The image has been magnified by a factor of 2 and contrast-enhanced to aid visibility.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Sept. 13, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.2 million kilometers (746,000 miles) from Iapetus and at a Sun-Iapetus-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 103 degrees.

The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thin Blue Line

Thursday, November 26, 2009
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The thin line of Earth's atmosphere and the setting sun are featured in this image photographed by the crew of the International Space Station while space shuttle Atlantis on the STS-129 mission was docked with the station.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Streamer-Channels and Shadow

Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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Saturn's moon Prometheus, orbiting near the streamer-channels it has created in the thin F ring, casts a shadow on the A ring in this image taken a little more than a week after the planet's August 2009 equinox.

Potato-shaped Prometheus (86 kilometers, 53 miles across) periodically creates streamer-channels in the F ring, and the moon's handiwork can be seen on the left of the image. To learn more and to watch a movie of this process, see PIA08397.

The novel illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun's angle to the ringplane, significantly darkens the rings, and causes out-of-plane structures to look anomalously bright and cast shadows across the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. Before and after equinox, Cassini's cameras have spotted not only the predictable shadows of some of Saturn's moons (see PIA11657), but also the shadows of newly revealed vertical structures in the rings themselves (see PIA11665).

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from about 8 degrees above the ringplane.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 21, 2009. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Saturn. Image scale is 13 kilometers (8 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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M78 Wide Field

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Interstellar dust clouds and glowing nebulae abound in the fertile constellation of Orion. One of the brightest, M78, is centered in this colorful, wide field view, covering an area north of Orion's belt. At a distance of about 1,500 light-years, the bluish reflection nebula is around 5 light-years across. Its tint is due to dust preferentially reflecting the blue light of hot, young stars. Reflection nebula NGC 2071 is just to the left of M78. To the right of M78 and much more compact in appearance, the intriguing McNeil's Nebula is a recently recognized variable nebula associated with the formation of a sun-like star. The remarkably deep exposure also brings out the region's faint but pervasive reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Butterflies in Space Education Project - Update

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
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NSBRI: Join us for daily updates of the STS-129 "Butterflies in Space" experiment, and study butterfly life cycles and behaviors in microgravity and on Earth. Images are downloaded from the International Space Station (ISS) in two batches each day.

Payload Information below

National Space Biomedical Research Institute: Students of all ages can follow the "butterflynauts" aboard the International Space Station as they develop from larvae into Painted Lady butterflies. The educational experiment launched Nov. 16 on space shuttle Atlantis, and the butterfly habitat will be transferred to the Space Station within the first 2-3 days of the mission.

"About 100 elementary and middle school classrooms across the U.S. are participating in a pilot study by setting up ground-based habitats. Students will replicate the space experiment and compare the growth and behavior of their butterfly larvae with those living in the microgravity environment of space," said Dr. Greg Vogt, senior project manager at Baylor College of Medicine's (BCM) Center for Educational Outreach. In addition to the pilot group, all classrooms across the country are invited to participate by setting up their own butterfly habitats. Photos and video of the space larvae will be transmitted to Earth daily and will be made available on the BioEd Online website (www.bioedonline.org).

A free Butterflies in Space teacher's guide can also be downloaded from the site. The guide provides information on ordering larvae, along with simple instructions on how to create a habitat and care for the larvae and butterflies. Examples of scientific investigations are provided so that students can perform their own experiments. "Because the photos and video will be archived, classrooms can participate during the mission or wait until later," Vogt said. "Classes can begin the experiment whenever they wish and compare their classroom larvae with photos of space larvae at the same developmental stage." During the mission, the public can visit BioEd Online to view streaming video of a ground-based version of the experiment.

"We encourage people to participate by viewing the ground-based video and comparing it with the video and photos transmitted from the Space Station," Vogt said. The educational activity is sponsored by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute and involves the cooperative effort of several science and education organizations. Project partners include BioServe Space Technologies of University of Colorado at Boulder, BCM, Orion's Quest, The Butterfly Pavilion, Challenger Learning Center of Colorado and NASA. Additional support is provided by the Houston Endowment Inc., and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "At launch, the larvae are six days old. It will take about five days to pupate and form a chrysalis," said Stefanie Countryman, BioServe payload mission manager. "In another seven to 10 days, the butterflies will emerge."

Throughout the experiment, students will be encouraged to compare larvae developing on Earth to those on the Space Station. Possible points of comparison include growth rates, feeding behavior, wing development and flight. "Little is known about how butterflies rely on gravity for orientation, feeding and wing expansion," Vogt said. "So, students will have real opportunities to investigate unique questions and contribute to general scientific knowledge." Students will learn the skill of scientific observation by making detailed sketches of the larvae as they develop.

The experiment will teach them to ask scientific questions, observe details and differences, and make better comparisons between two groups. "This is a chance for students to do everything that a scientist would do. They are setting up the habitat, maintaining it, monitoring it daily, providing food, collecting data and making comparisons," Vogt said. Notes: The release and photos are available at: http://www.nsbri.org/NewsPublicOut/Release.epl?r=127.


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All-Sky Milky Way Panorama

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If you could go far away from the Earth and look around the entire sky -- what would you see? Such was the goal of the All-Sky Milky Way Panorama 2.0 project of Axel Mellinger. Presented above is the result: a digital compilation of over 3,000 images comprising the highest resolution digital panorama of the entire night sky yet created. An interactive zoom version, featuring over 500 million pixels, can be found here. Every fixed astronomical object visible to the unaided eye has been imaged, including every constellation, every nebula, and every star cluster. Moreover, millions are individual stars are also visible, all in our Milky Way Galaxy, and many a thousand times fainter than a human can see. Dark filaments of dust lace central band of our Milky Way Galaxy, visible across the image center. The satellite galaxies Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are visible on the lower right. This was not the first time Dr. Mellinger has embarked on such a project: the results of his first All-Sky Milky Way Panorama Project, taken using photographic film, are visible here.

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2009-10 NASA University Design Contest in Exploration Systems

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Student Challenge: We have expanded the contest beyond rover exploration of the lunar surface. The new challenge is to design tools and instrumentation for human and robotic exploration on the moon.

The NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and the Exploration Technology Development Program encourage college students to design tools and instruments needed for future human and robotic exploration of the moon. Student projects will tackle real problems required for successful lunar missions. An expanded list of example problems will be posted to Design Challenge page soon. Check back often for new FAQ and other information.

Contest News
* NASA rover fact sheets

Moon Work Contestants visit Desert RATS near Flagstaff, AZ

In September, the top three scoring teams from the 2009 Moon Work contest attended the NASA Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS) lunar analog test site at Black Point Lava Flow north of Flagstaff, AZ. After touring the equipment stations at the site, the students gave a brief overview of their contest projects to a group of scientists, engineers and technicians. Joe Kosmo, D-RATS project manager, gave each of the teams an engraved award plaque to commemorate their achievement.
View more Desert RATS photos.

First Place Award
University of Maryland
Left to Right: Nick D'Amore, Breanne McNerney, Joe Kosmo, Nitin Sydney

Second Place Award
University of Akron
Left to Right: Ben Magistro, Courtney Gras,
Joe Kosmo


hird Place Award Texas A&M University
Left to Right: Joe Kosmo, Keri Bean, Dion Delao, Grant Atkinson, Matt Requa, Chardae Mollere-Rodriquez, Trevor Saultz



Moon Contest 2009 student field trip outside of Meteor Crater, AZ

A free license or seat of Pro/ENGINEER Schools Edition 3-D Computer Aided Design (CAD) software is available to all students that enter the contest. Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) manufactures the software and will provide one license to each university student that declares a entry to the contest. The corporation has made this offer in the hopes of improving student’s ability to use the program, thus improving the engineering skill set of the future workforce. If you would like to have Pro/ENGINEER, please email the contest administrator for details. Please note: The use of Pro/ENGINEER is not required for contest participation, nor is NASA endorsing the software or its manufacturer. Click here for information.

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Tweet of the Year

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@Astro_Mike Nominated As One of Five Finalists for Tweet of the Year


› Vote NOW for @Astro_Mike

Twitter is a social media tool that offers a new vehicle for NASA to interact with non-traditional audiences in a dynamic, viral conversation about space, the merits of exploring the unknown, and its relevance to every day life here on our home planet. Twitter allows citizens of this planet to converse with and learn from scientists, engineers, policy-makers, and space travelers.

Mike @Astro_Mike Massimino is NASA’s first astronaut to use Twitter before, during, and after a space shuttle mission. STS-125, the final Hubble repair mission, captivated enthusiasts around the world. @Astro_Mike's tweets during the mission endeared him to the social media crowd.

And now, the social media world is rewarding @Astro_Mike for his willingness to step out as the first Twitternaut. His first tweet from space is one of five finalists for Tweet of the Year in this year’s 2009 Open Web Awards, Social Media Edition. The first tweet from space is up against stiff competition. Let's launch him to the top of the list.

Voting began November 18 and will extend through December 13, consisting of one vote per day per category. Winners will be announced Tuesday, December 15. You must have a social media account on Facebook or Twitter to participate. But if you do, show @Astro_Mike your appreciation for his willingness to share his experience in Zero-G with those of us left on Earth.

› Vote for Tweet of the Year now.

Related Article:
› Astro Mike rocketing to a Million on Twitter.


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A Different View STS-129 mission

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On flight day four of the STS-129 mission, a member of the crew photographed the aft section of space shuttle Atlantis through a window from aboard the International Space Station. Reflections on the window are visible in this image. The 11-day shuttle mission continued maintenance and upgrades to the orbital outpost.

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The Brightness of the Sun

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The bright sun greets the International Space Station in this Nov. 22 image, taken from the Russian section of the orbital outpost and photographed by the STS-129 crew.

The 11-day STS-129 mission installed a number of station upgrades and prepared the station for the installation of Node 3, which is slated for another mission.

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NASA Satellites Detect Unexpected Ice Loss in East Antarctica

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Using gravity measurement data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) mission, a team of scientists from the University of Texas at Austin has found that the East Antarctic ice sheet-home to about 90 percent of Earth's solid fresh water and previously considered stable-may have begun to lose ice.

The team used Grace data to estimate Antarctica's ice mass between 2002 and 2009. Their results, published Nov. 22 in the journal Nature Geoscience, found that the East Antarctic ice sheet is losing mass, mostly in coastal regions, at an estimated rate of 57 gigatonnes a year. A gigatonne is one billion metric tons, or more than 2.2 trillion pounds. The ice loss there may have begun as early as 2006. The study also confirmed previous results showing that West Antarctica is losing about 132 gigatonnes of ice per year.

"While we are seeing a trend of accelerating ice loss in Antarctica, we had considered East Antarctica to be inviolate," said lead author and Senior Research Scientist Jianli Chen of the university's Center for Space Research. "But if it is losing mass, as our data indicate, it may be an indication the state of East Antarctica has changed. Since it's the biggest ice sheet on Earth, ice loss there can have a large impact on global sea level rise in the future."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., developed the twin Grace satellites. The University of Texas Center for Space Research in Austin has overall Grace mission responsibility. Grace was launched in 2002.

More information on Grace is online at http://www.csr.utexas.edu/grace/ and http://grace.jpl.nasa.gov/.

› Read the UTCSR news release

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Northern Aurora in Motion

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An aurora, shining high above the northern part of Saturn, moves from the night side to the day side of the planet in this movie recorded by Cassini.

These observations, taken over four days, represent the first visible-light video of Saturn's auroras. They show tall auroral curtains, rapidly changing over time when viewed at the limb, or edge, of the planet's northern hemisphere. The sequence of images also reveals that Saturn's auroral curtains, the sheet-like formations of light-emitting atmospheric molecules, stretch up along Saturn's magnetic field and reach heights of more than 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) above the planet's limb. These are the tallest known "northern lights" in the solar system.

These auroral displays are created by charged particles from the magnetosphere that plunge into the planet's upper atmosphere and cause it to glow. The magnetosphere is the region of electrically charged particles that are trapped in the magnetic field of the planet. The auroral curtains shown in the movie reveal the paths that these charged particles take as they flow along lines of the magnetic field between the planet's magnetosphere and ionosphere.

The day side of Saturn scatters light toward Cassini, creating the overexposed triangle at the center of the left of the frame. Stars can be seen above the limb of the planet, trailing across the field of view.

The images were captured in black and white, but the aurora in this movie is shown in a false orange color to distinguish it from background noise in the images. The images were processed to remove cosmic ray hits, bad pixels and lens flare. On Earth, auroras often appear green, but scientists do not yet know the color of auroras on Saturn. Auroras on Saturn, like those on Earth, appear mostly in the high latitudes near the planet's poles. In the annotated version of the movie, latitude lines have been drawn on the planet at 70 and 78 degrees north latitude. The auroras can be seen moving with the planet's rotation along the curved path of about 74 degrees north latitude. They change shape and brightness in a manner similar to terrestrial auroras. The aurora curtains become particularly bright when they are projected edge-on to Cassini as they pass over the limb from the near (dark) side to the far (bright) side of Saturn. Near the end of the movie, a snake-shaped aurora footprint brightens abruptly and fades over about five frames.

The movie consists of 472 images taken during an 81-hour period. Each image was obtained with a two- or three-minute exposure.

These images were taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft's narrow-angle camera on Oct. 5 to 8, 2009. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 2.8 million kilometers (1.7 million miles) from Saturn and at a Sun-Saturn-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 111 degrees. Image scale is 32 kilometers (20 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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Roughed-up Rhea

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Cassini looks toward the battered surface of the moon Rhea.

See PIA09895 and PIA10464 to learn more about this moon. This view looks toward leading hemisphere of Rhea (1528 kilometers, 949 miles across). North on Rhea is up.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Oct. 13, 2009. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 44,000 kilometers (27,000 miles) from Rhea and at a Sun-Rhea-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 103 degrees. Image scale is 3 kilometers (2 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini Equinox Mission visit http://ciclops.org

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Team Plans Uplink of Protective Files

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status Report

The team operating NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter plans to uplink protective files to the spacecraft next week as one step toward resuming the orbiter's research and relay activities.

Since the orbiter spontaneously rebooted its computer on Aug. 26, flight team engineers have been examining possible root causes and repercussions of that incident and three similar events this year on Feb. 23, June 3 and Aug. 6. Meanwhile, the team has kept the spacecraft in a precautionary, minimally active status called "safe mode."

The four reboots involved a device, called the "computer module interface controller," that controls which of two redundant main computers on the spacecraft is active. Still undetermined is whether trouble lies with that controller itself or with a voltage glitch elsewhere on the spacecraft. The Aug. 6 reboot, though not the other three, prompted a switch from one computer to its backup twin. More than 100 factors are under consideration as possible root causes.

Engineers' analysis of the reboots has identified a possible, though unlikely, scenario that, should it occur, could jeopardize the spacecraft. This scenario would require two computer reboots, each worse than any so far, occurring within about a minute of each other in a certain pattern. The effect would be that neither of the redundant computers would remember that the spacecraft is in orbit around Mars instead of awaiting launch. The team has developed and tested a preventive-care measure to eliminate this possibility.

The preventive care requires amending some data files in the computers' non-volatile, or "flash" memories where the computers check for default settings when they reboot. However, overwriting information in those files can entail risk, especially if the spacecraft were to experience another reboot with the process only partially completed. A process developed and tested in recent weeks to minimize that risk will take several days to implement. The team will uplink, install and verify the changes in a careful sequence.

"We plan to begin uplinking protective files next week," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "This process is to bulletproof the spacecraft against a remote vulnerability that our team identified. Meanwhile, analysis of possible root causes for the four reboots this year continues as another important part of our path toward resuming science operations."

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter uses six instruments to examine Mars in detail, from subsurface layers to the top of the atmosphere. It began its investigations in 2006, has provided more data about Mars than all other missions combined, and last year completed its primary science phase. Continuing science observations are planned when the spacecraft is brought out of safe mode, but no specific date for that has been set.

"The precautionary steps we are taking are not driven by the calendar, but by our commitment to care for this valuable national resource," Erickson said. "We are all eager to have science observations resume as soon as a properly cautious process allows."

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Cassini Flyby Shows Enceladus Venting

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What's happening on the surface of Saturn's moon Enceladus? Enormous ice jets are erupting. Giant plumes of ice have been photographed in dramatic fashion by the robotic Cassini spacecraft during this past weekend's flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Pictured above, numerous plumes are seen rising from long tiger-stripe canyons across Enceladus' craggy surface. Several ice jets are even visible in the shadowed region of crescent Enceladus as they reach high enough to scatter sunlight. Other plumes, near the top of the above image, appear visible just over the moon's sunlit edge. That Enceladus vents fountains of ice was first discovered on Cassini images in 2005, and has been under close study ever since. Continued study of the ice plumes may yield further clues as to whether underground oceans, candidates for containing life, exist on this distant ice world.

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Monster Waves on the Sun are Real

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Sometimes you really can believe your eyes. That's what NASA's STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) spacecraft are telling researchers about a controversial phenomenon on the sun known as the "solar tsunami."Years ago, when solar physicists first witnessed a towering wave of hot plasma racing along the sun's surface, they doubted their senses. The scale of the thing was staggering. It rose up higher than Earth itself and rippled out from a central point in a circular pattern millions of kilometers in circumference. Skeptical observers suggested it might be a shadow of some kind—a trick of the eye—but surely not a real wave.

"Now we know," says Joe Gurman of the Solar Physics Lab at the Goddard Space Flight Center. "Solar tsunamis are real."

The twin STEREO spacecraft confirmed their reality in February 2009 when sunspot 11012 unexpectedly erupted. The blast hurled a billion-ton cloud of gas (a "CME") into space and sent a tsunami racing along the sun's surface.

STEREO recorded the wave from two positions separated by 90o, giving researchers an unprecedented view of the event:

"It was definitely a wave," says Spiros Patsourakos of George Mason University, lead author of a paper reporting the finding in the Astrophysical Journal Letters . "Not a wave of water," he adds, "but a giant wave of hot plasma and magnetism."

The technical name is "fast-mode magnetohydrodynamical wave"—or "MHD wave" for short. The one STEREO saw reared up about 100,000 km high, and raced outward at 250 km/s (560,000 mph) packing as much energy as 2400 megatons of TNT (1029 ergs).

Solar tsunamis were discovered back in 1997 by the Solar and Heliospheric observatory (SOHO). In May of that year, a CME came blasting up from an active region on the sun's surface, and SOHO recorded a tsunami rippling away from the blast site.

"We wondered," recalls Gurman,"is that a wave—or just a shadow of the CME overhead?"

SOHO's single point of view was not enough to answer the question -neither for that first wave nor for many similar events recorded by SOHO in years that followed.

The question remained open until after the launch of STEREO in 2006. At the time of the February 2009 eruption, STEREO-B was directly over the blast site while STEREO-A was stationed at right angles —"perfect geometry for cracking the mystery," says co-author Angelos Vourlidas of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC.

The physical reality of the waves has been further confirmed by movies of the waves crashing into things. "We've seen the waves reflected by coronal holes (magnetic holes in the sun's atmosphere)," says Vourlidas. "And there is a wonderful movie of a solar prominence oscillating after it gets hit by a wave. We call it the 'dancing prominence.'"

Right: The dancing prominence (circled). Watch it bounce up and down after getting hit by a faint but powerful solar tsunami: 4 MB gif animation, 54 MB Quicktime movie.

Solar tsunamis pose no direct threat to Earth. Nevertheless,they are important to study. "We can use them to diagnose conditions on the sun," notes Gurman. "By watching how the waves propagate and bounce off things, we can gather information about the sun's lower atmosphere available in no other way."

"Tsunami waves can also improve our forecasting of space adds Vourlidas, "Like a bull-eye, they 'mark the spot' where an eruption takes place. Pinpointing the blast site can help us anticipate when a CME or radiation storm will reach Earth."

And they're pretty entertaining, too. "The movies,"he says, "are out of this world."

Editor's note: Scroll down to the "more information" section for a selection of solar tsunami movies.

more information

A selection of solar tsunami movies:

The original research reported in this story may be found in the August 1st edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters: "'Extreme Ultraviolet Waves' are Waves: First Quadrature Observations of an Extreme Ultraviolet Wave from STEREO,"by Spiros Patsourakos and Angelos Vourlidas, vol. 700,page L182.

More links:

Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO)

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)

Solar Tsunami Reflection from a Coronal Hole



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Monday, November 23, 2009

Mike Foreman STS-129 mission

Monday, November 23, 2009
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Astronaut Mike Foreman performed tasks on the exterior of the International Space Station during the second spacewalk of the STS-129 mission to the orbital outpost.

Astronauts Foreman and Randy Bresnik were in the midst of the second of three scheduled spacewalks for this shuttle crew, working in cooperation with the five current crewmembers for the orbital outpost and with their five Atlantis crewmates.

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Randy Bresnik Space Shuttle Atlantis

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Astronaut Randy Bresnik is pictured near the base of the Orbiter Boom Sensor System on the starboard side of the cargo bay of the space shuttle Atlantis, docked with the International Space Station. Astronauts Bresnik and Mike Foreman were in the midst of the second of three scheduled spacewalks for the STS-129 mission, working in cooperation with the five current crewmembers for the orbital outpost and with their five Atlantis crewmates, all of whom provided support for the spacewalk from inside the station.

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Wise a Bit Closer to the Sky

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NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or Wise, is now perched atop its rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base, north of Santa Barbara, Calif. The mission, which will scan the whole sky in infrared light, is scheduled to blast off on Dec. 9. It was hoisted to the top of its United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket on Friday, Nov. 20.

JPL manages the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The mission's principal investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

More information is online at http://www.nasa.gov/wise and http://wise.astro.ucla.edu .


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Inventors Answer Call for New Glove Designs

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Two independent inventors answered NASA's call for innovative new designs for the next generation of astronaut gloves. Today's spacewalkers have to contend with bulky gloves that stiffen when pressurized, making it tough to grip and flex while completing tasks in the vacuum of space.

Peter Homer and Ted Southern put their prototypes to the test during NASA's 2009 Astronaut Glove Challenge, held Nov. 19 at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Fla., near NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Homer, an engineer from Southwest Harbor, Maine, was awarded $250,000 after placing first. Southern, a sculpture major at New York's Pratt Institute, earned second place and $100,000.

The ultimate goal of the Astronaut Glove Challenge is to improve the current design, resulting in a stronger and more flexible glove that will reduce the hand fatigue experienced by astronauts working in space.

For the first Astronaut Glove Challenge held in 2007, competitors supplied only the inner pressure-restraining layer. The outer layer, which provides protection against extreme temperatures and micrometeoroids, was an added requirement this year. Representatives from NASA and the agency's spacesuit contractor, ILC Dover, observed and noted the gloves' performances in a series of three tests.

The competitor inserted his gloved arm and hand into a depressurized glove box for the dexterity and flexibility test, completing cycles of movements and tasks, such as gripping a handle, using tools, flexing the hand and wrist, and touching the tip of the thumb to the tip of each finger.

In the joint force test, test operators from ILC Dover sealed and pressurized each glove to 4.3 pounds per square inch (psi) of internal pressure, then tugged it through its full range of motion while measuring the amount of force each movement required.

Finally, the gloves' strength capabilities were measured in the burst test. The room quieted as test operators sealed the glove and filled it with water, slowly increasing the pressure. Competitors, judges and other spectators leaned forward, watching the glove for signs of weakness or rupture.

The event was sponsored by Secor Strategies LLC of Titusville, Fla., and non-profit Volanz Aerospace of Owings, Md., managed the event for NASA.

"Both of you did better than the (current) Phase VI glove, and you both get a round of applause for that," said Alan Hayes, Volanz Aerospace chairman. "The test results were incredibly close."

Both Homer and Southern began working on the project in spring 2006 and competed in the first Astronaut Glove Challenge. Homer took home $200,000 after winning that event. After the 2007 challenge, Southern teamed up with former competitor Nikolay Moiseev.

Prior to the challenge, competitors were in the dark about who else would participate or what their designs might be.

"You're sort of developing in the vacuum of your own little world," Homer said. "You're hoping that you're going far enough with your design. And then there's the aspect of, 'Who am I going to be going up against?' I didn't know Ted was competing until we walked in and saw each other."

The Astronaut Glove Challenge is one of six Centennial Challenges prize competitions managed by NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program.

For more information about NASA's Centennial Challenges, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/offices/ipp/innovation_incubator/centennial_challenges/index.html

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Spitzer Telescope Observes Baby Brown Dwarf

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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has contributed to the discovery of the youngest brown dwarf ever observed -- a finding that, if confirmed, may solve an astronomical mystery about how these cosmic misfits are formed.

Brown dwarfs are misfits because they fall somewhere between planets and stars in terms of their temperature and mass. They are cooler and more lightweight than stars and more massive (and normally warmer) than planets. This has generated a debate among astronomers: Do brown dwarfs form like planets or like stars?

Brown dwarfs are born of the same dense, dusty clouds that spawn stars and planets. But while they may share the same galactic nursery, brown dwarfs are often called "failed" stars because they lack the mass of their hotter, brighter stellar siblings. Without that mass, the gas at their core does not get hot enough to trigger the nuclear fusion that burns hydrogen -- the main component of these molecular clouds -- into helium. Unable to ignite as stars, brown dwarfs end up as cooler, less luminous objects that are more difficult to detect -- a challenge that was overcome in this case by Spitzer's heat-sensitive infrared vision.

To complicate matters, young brown dwarfs evolve rapidly, making it difficult to catch them when they are first born. The first brown dwarf was discovered in 1995 and, while hundreds have been found since, astronomers had not been able to unambiguously find them in their earliest stages of formation until now. In this study, an international team of astronomers found a so-called "proto brown dwarf" while it was still hidden in its natal star-forming region. Guided by Spitzer data collected in 2005, they focused their search in the dark cloud Barnard 213, a region of the Taurus-Auriga complex well known to astronomers as a hunting ground for young objects.

"We decided to go several steps back in the process when (brown dwarfs) are really hidden," said David Barrado of the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid, Spain, lead author of the paper on the discovery in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal. "During this step they would have an (opaque) envelope, a cocoon, and they would be easier to identify due to their strong infrared excesses. We have used this property to identify them. This is where Spitzer plays an important role because Spitzer can have a look inside these clouds. Without it this wouldn't have been possible."

Spitzer's longer-wavelength infrared camera penetrated the dusty natal cloud to observe a baby brown dwarf named SSTB213 J041757. The data, confirmed with near-infrared imaging from Calar Alto Observatory in Spain, revealed not one but two of what would potentially prove to be the faintest and coolest brown dwarfs ever observed.

Barrado and his team embarked on an international quest for more information about the two objects. Their overarching scientific objective was to observe and characterize the presence of this dusty envelope -- proof of the celestial womb of sorts that would indicate that these brown dwarfs were, in fact, in their earliest evolutionary stages.

The twins were observed from around the globe, and their properties were measured and analyzed using a host of powerful astronomical tools. One of the astronomers' stops was the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory in Hawaii, which captured the presence of the envelope around the young objects. That information, coupled with what they had from Spitzer, enabled the astronomers to build a spectral energy distribution -- a diagram that shows the amount of energy that is emitted by the objects in each wavelength.

From Hawaii, the astronomers made additional stops at observatories in Spain (Calar Alto Observatory), Chile (Very Large Telescopes) and New Mexico (Very Large Array). They also pulled decade-old data from the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre archives that allowed them to comparatively measure how the two objects were moving in the sky. After more than a year of observations, they drew their conclusions.

"We were able to estimate that these two objects are the faintest and coolest discovered so far," Barrado said. Barrado said the findings potentially solve the mystery about whether brown dwarfs form more like stars or planets. The answer? They form like low-mass stars. This theory is bolstered because the change in brightness of the objects at various wavelengths matches that of other very young, low-mass stars.

While further study will confirm whether these two celestial objects are in fact proto brown dwarfs, they are the best candidates so far, Barrado said. He said the journey to their discovery, while difficult, was fun. "It is a story that has been unfolding piece by piece. Sometimes nature takes its time to give up its secrets."

These observations were made before Spitzer ran out of its liquid coolant in May 2009, beginning its "warm" mission.

The paper's other authors are M. Morales-Calderon, Centro de Astrobiología and Spitzer Science Center; A. Palau and A. Bayo, Centro de Astrobiología; I. de Gregorio-Monsalvo, European Southern Observatory; C. Eiroa, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; N. Huelamo, Centro de Astrobiología; H. Bouy, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and European Space Agency; O. Morata, Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics and National Taiwan Normal University; and L. Schmidtobreick, European Southern Observatory. More information on the Spitzer Space Telescope is online at http://spitzer.caltech.edu and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer .

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Crescent Earth from the Departing Rosetta Spacecraft

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Goodbye Earth. Earlier this month, ESA's interplanetary Rosetta spacecraft zoomed past the Earth on its way back across the Solar System. Pictured above, Earth showed a bright crescent phase featuring the South Pole to the passing rocket ship. Launched from Earth in 2004, Rosetta used the gravity of the Earth to help propel it out past Mars and toward a 2014 rendezvous with Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Last year, the robot spacecraft passed asteroid 2867 Steins, and next year it is scheduled to pass enigmatic asteroid 21 Lutetia. If all goes well, Rosetta will release a probe that will land on the 15-km diameter comet in 2014.

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Slanting Shadows Cassini:

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Long shadows stretch away from the towering edge waves created by the gravity of the moon Daphnis in this image taken a little more than a week before Saturn's August 2009 equinox.

Tiny Daphnis (8 kilometers, 5 miles across) appears as a bright dot in the Keeler Gap near the tall edge waves it has created in the A ring. The moon has an inclined orbit and its gravitational pull perturbs the orbits of the particles of the A ring forming the Keeler Gap's edge and sculpts the edge into waves having both horizontal (radial) and out-of-plane components. Material on the inner edge of the gap orbits faster than the moon so that the waves there lead the moon in its orbit. Material on the outer edge moves slower than the moon, so waves there trail the moon. See PIA11656 to learn more about this process. Both the moon and the edge waves can be seen casting shadows in this image.

This view looks toward the northern, unilluminated side of the rings from about 38 degrees above the ringplane. Background stars, including three stars shining through the rings, are visible elongated by the motion of the spacecraft during the image's exposure.

The novel illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun's angle to the ringplane, significantly darkens the rings, and causes out-of-plane structures to look anomalously bright and cast shadows across the rings. These scenes are possible only during the few months before and after Saturn's equinox which occurs only once in about 15 Earth years. Before and after equinox, Cassini's cameras have spotted not only the predictable shadows of some of Saturn's moons (see PIA11657), but also the shadows of newly revealed vertical structures in the rings themselves (see PIA11665).

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 28, 2009. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 983,000 kilometers (611,000 miles) from Daphnis. Image scale is 6 kilometers (4 miles) per pixel.

The Cassini Equinox Mission is a joint United States and European endeavor. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the US, England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team lead (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information about the Cassini Equinox Mission visit http://ciclops.org

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Educate to Innovate

Sunday, November 22, 2009
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President Obama has launched an “Educate to Innovate” campaign to improve the participation and performance of America’s students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This campaign will include efforts not only from the Federal Government but also from leading companies, foundations, non-profits, and science and engineering societies to work with young people across America to excel in science and math.

As part of the campaign, this Administration hopes to do a series of events, announcements and other activities that build upon the President’s “call to action” and address the key components of national priority.

Why This is Important

We have many great schools, excellent teachers, and successful students in America. But there are also troubling signs that, overall, our students should be doing better in math and science.

What We Must Do

Through “Educate to Innovate” and other efforts, we must:

  • Increase STEM literacy so that all students can learn deeply and think critically in science, math, engineering, and technology.
  • Move American students from the middle of the pack to top in the next decade.
  • Expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls.

The First Steps

America is already stepping forward to meet these challenges. As part of the “Educate to Innovate” effort, five major public-private partnerships are harnessing the power of media, interactive games, hands-on learning, and community volunteers to reach millions of students over the next four years, inspiring them to be the next generation of inventors and innovators.

  • Time-Warner Cable, Discovery Communications, Sesame Street, and other partners will get the message to kids and students about the wonder of invention and discovery.
  • National Lab Day will help build communities of support around teachers across the country, culminating in a day of civic participation.
  • National STEM design competitions will develop game options to engage kids in scientific inquiry and challenging designs.
  • Five leading business and thought leaders (Sally Ride, Craig Barrett, Ursula Burns, Glen Britt, and Antonio Perez) will head an effort to increase private and philanthropic involvement in support of STEM teaching and learning.

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