Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fast Gas Bullet from Cosmic Blast N49

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 0 comments

What is that strange blue blob on the far right? No one is sure, but it might be a speeding remnant of a powerful supernova that was unexpectedly lopsided. Scattered debris from supernova explosion N49 lights up the sky in this gorgeous composited image based on data from the Chandra and Hubble Space Telescopes. Glowing visible filaments, shown in yellow, and X-ray hot gas, shown in blue, span about 30 light-years in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. Light from the original exploding star reached Earth thousands of years ago, but N49 also marks the location of another energetic outburst -- an extremely intense blast of gamma-rays detected by satellites about 30 years ago on 1979 March 5. The source of the March 5th Event is now attributed to a magnetar - a highly magnetized, spinning neutron star also born in the ancient stellar explosion which created supernova remnant N49. The magnetar, visible near the top of the image, hurtles through the supernova debris cloud at over 70 thousand kilometers per hour. The blue blob on the far right, however, might have been expelled asymmetrically just as a massive star was exploding. If so, it now appears to be moving over 7 million kilometers per hour. 

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Trees, Sky, Galactic Eye

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 0 comments

Is beauty in the eye of this beholder? Earlier this month, over Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, a playful photographer with an eye for the sky took eight images and composed the above intriguing picture. The full fisheye frame shows everything above the horizon, including a lamp-illuminated landscape around the edges, and the zenith of the sky directly overhead. The image, however, may be more than beautiful -- it may also be a scavenger hunt. Can you find the photographer's tent, the slope of a volcano (active Piton de la Fournaise), a picturesque shoreline, and the lights of the nearby town (Saint Philippe)? One remarkable feature of the above image is that its center contains the very center of our Milky Way Galaxy

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Monday, June 28, 2010

A Partial Lunar Eclipse

Monday, June 28, 2010 0 comments

What's happened to the Moon? This past weekend, once again, part of the Moon moved through the Earth's shadow. This happens about once or twice a year, on the average, but not each month since the Moon's orbit around the Earth is slightly tilted. Pictured above, the face of a full moon is partly blocked by Earth's clouds, and partly darkened on the upper right by Earth's umbral shadow. Clouds permitting, the partial lunar eclipse was visible from the half of the Earth facing the Moon at the time of the eclipse, which included much of Earth's Pacific Rim. On July 11, a total eclipse of the Sun will be visible in a thin swath of Earth crossing the southern Pacific Ocean.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

All the Colors of the Sun

Sunday, June 27, 2010 0 comments
It is still not known why the Sun's light is missing some colors. Shown above are all the visible colors of the Sun, produced by passing the Sun's light through a prism-like device. The above spectrum was created at the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory and shows, first off, that although our white-appearing Sun emits light of nearly every color, it does indeed appear brightest in yellow-green light. The dark patches in the above spectrum arise from gas at or above the Sun's surface absorbing sunlight emitted below. Since different types of gas absorb different colors of light, it is possible to determine what gasses compose the Sun. Helium, for example, was first discovered in 1870 on a solar spectrum and only later found here on Earth. Today, the majority of spectral absorption lines have been identified - but not all.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Young Star Cluster Westerlund 2

Saturday, June 26, 2010 0 comments
Dusty stellar nursery RCW 49 surrounds young star cluster Westerlund 2 in this remarkable composite skyscape from beyond the visible spectrum of light. Infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope is shown in black and white, complementing the Chandra X-ray image data (in false color) of the hot energetic stars within the cluster's central region. Looking toward the grand southern constellation Centaurus, both views reveal stars and structures hidden from optical telescopes by obscuring dust. Westerlund 2 itself is a mere 2 million years old or less, and contains some of our galaxy's most luminous, massive and therefore short-lived stars. The infrared signatures of proto-planetary disks have also been identified in the intense star forming region. At the cluster's estimated distance of 20,000 light-years, the square marking the Chandra field of view would be about 50 light-years on a side. 

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Friday, June 25, 2010

The Starry Night of Alamut

Friday, June 25, 2010 1 comments

A meteor's streak and the arc of the Milky Way hang over the imposing mountain fortress of Alamut in this starry scene. Found in the central Alborz Mountains of Iran, Alamut Castle was built into the rock in the 9th century. The name means Eagle's Nest. Home of the legendary Assassins featured in the adventure movie Prince of Persia, Alamut was also historically a center for libraries and education. For a time, it was the residence of important 13th century Persian scholar and astronomer Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. To identify the stars in a night sky Tusi certainly pondered, just slide your cursor over the image. Highlights include bright white stars Deneb (in Cygnus), Vega, and Altair, nebulae near the Galactic Center, and the dark obscuring dust clouds of the Milky Way also known as the Great Rift. Lights at the lower right are from small villages and the capital Tehran, over 100 kilometers away to the southwest.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Dark Tower in Scorpius

Thursday, June 24, 2010 0 comments

In silhouette against a crowded star field toward the constellation Scorpius, this dusty cosmic cloud evokes for some the image of an ominous dark tower. In fact, clumps of dust and molecular gas collapsing to form stars may well lurk within the dark nebula, a structure that spans almost 40 light-years across the gorgeous telescopic view. Known as a cometary globule, the swept-back cloud, extending from the lower left to the head (top of the tower) right and above center, is shaped by intense ultraviolet radiation from the OB association of very hot stars in NGC 6231, off the right edge of the scene. That energetic ultraviolet light also powers the globule's bordering reddish glow of hydrogen gas. Hot stars embedded in the dust can be seen as bluish reflection nebulae. This dark tower, NGC 6231, and associated nebulae are about 5,000 light-years away.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sunset from the International Space Station

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 1 comments

What are these strange color bands being seen from the International Space Station? The Sun setting through Earth's atmosphere. Pictured above, a sunset captured last month by the ISS's Expedition 23 crew shows in vivid detail many layers of the Earth's thin atmosphere. Part of the Earth experiencing night crosses the bottom of the image. Above that, appearing in deep orange and yellow, is the Earth's troposphere, which contains 80 percent of the atmosphere by mass and almost all of the clouds in the sky. Above the troposphere, seen as a light blue band with white clouds, is the stratosphere, part of the Earth's atmosphere where airplanes fly and some hardy bacteria float. Above the stratosphere, visible as a darker blue bands, are higher and thinner atmospheric levels that gradually fade away into the cold dark vacuum of outer space. Sunset is not an uncommon sight for occupants of the International Space Station, because it can be seen as many as 16 times a day.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Islands of Four Mountains from Above

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 0 comments

Our Earth is covered by volcanoes. Volcanoes are breaks in the Earth's cool surface where hot liquid rock from the interior comes out -- sometimes suddenly. In the above image from the ASTER camera aboard NASA's orbiting Terra satellite, snow-capped volcanoes are seen from overhead that compose the picturesque Islands of the Four Mountains in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, USA. The islands contain restless Mt. Cleveland, an active volcano currently being watched to see if it emits an ash cloud that could affect air travel over parts of North America. A close look at Mt. Cleveland, seen near the image center, shows red vegetation (false color), a white snow-covered peak, a light plume of gas and ash, and dark lanes where ash and debris fell or flowed. Millions of volcanoes have likely been active over the turbulent history of the Earth's surface, while about 20 volcanoes are erupting even today, at any given time.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

NASA FACTS - Exploring the Universe

Monday, June 21, 2010 0 comments



NASA FACTS - Exploring the Universe

NASA FACTS - Exploring the Universe

When the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft arrives at Saturn, it will be traveling so fast that engineers will need to burn the spacecraft's engines for 97 minutes just to slow it down. If mission engineers don't do this, the spacecraft would keep on going, instead of entering the orbit around Saturn.

A penumbral eclipse is the outer shadow in a zone where the Earth blocks part, but not all, of the Sun's rays from reaching the Moon. In contrast, the inner or umbral shadow is a region where the Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

Titan is the largest of Saturn's moons. It is the second largest moon in the solar system. In fact, it is larger than both Mercury and Pluto, which are planets.

Equinox literally means "equal night." On an equinox, the Sun is above the equator, so both the northern and southern hemispheres of the Earth receive about the same amount of sunlight, and day and night are the same length.

Because Saturn is tilted, when its rings are facing Earth edge-on they "disappear" from our view. We now know this happens every 14 years or so, but poor Galileo questioned his sanity when they "disappeared" and then "reappeared" a few years later.

Galileo, launched in 1989, was the first U.S. spacecraft to orbit Jupiter. Galileo entered Jupiter's orbit in 1995.

Saturn is huge. It is the second largest planet in our Solar System. Only Jupiter is bigger. If you could line them up, more than nine Earths would fit across Saturn.
Through his spyglass, in 1609 Galileo saw that there were spots on the Sun, imperfections on the Moon, and that the Milky Way was composed of millions of faint stars. His most stunning (and controversial!) discovery was of satellites orbiting Jupiter, dashing the concept that the Earth was the center of the Universe.

Saturn's moon Iapetus (eye-AP-eh-tuss) is a very curious moon -- it seems to have a split personality! One hemisphere is covered with material darker than black velvet, while the other side is covered with material brighter than snow.

Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter, is the largest moon in our Solar System.

The planet Saturn is named after Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. The day Saturday is also named after him.

The Cassini spacecraft has 12 instruments capable of 27 science investigations. To operate them, the spacecraft's electronic system consists of more than 12 kilometers (almost 7.5 miles) of cabling, about 20,000 wire connections, and 1,630 interconnect circuits.

On January 11, 1610, Galileo Galilei discovered Jupiter's moon Ganymede. Ganymede is the largest satellite in the solar system with a diameter of 5,268 km (3270 miles). It is larger than Mercury and Pluto and 3/4 the size of Mars.

Saturn's moon Mimas has an enormous crater named Herschel that is 130 kilometers (80 miles) wide, one-third the diameter of Mimas. The impact that caused the crater probably came close to shattering Mimas.

Gravity is the pulling force that keeps us on the surface of the Earth.

The Huygens probe will land on Titan's surface with the same force as a skydiver lands on Earth with an open parachute. That's approximately 24 kilometers (about 15 miles) per hour!

Halley's Comet makes one orbit around the Sun every 76.1 years.

Because Saturn spins on its axis extremely fast and has a low-density interior, Saturn is noticeably flattened, top and bottom. Saturn is 10 percent fatter in the middle than at the poles.

Did you know that there are 6 gyroscopes on the Hubble Space Telescope? The gyroscopes are used to point the telescope.

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft is about the same size as a 30-passenger school bus! It weighs roughly 5,650 kg (6 tons) -- more than half of its weight is rocket fuel.

Did you know that every day the Hubble Space Telescope archives 3 to 5 gigabytes of data and delivers between 10 and 15 gigabytes to astronomers all over the world?

Saturn's moon Mimas (MY-mass), one of the innermost moons of Saturn, was discovered in 1789 by William Herschel. It has a low density, meaning it probably consists mostly of ice.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched by the U.S. on April 24, 1990 and is named after Astronomer Edwin P. Hubble. It is a Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellite, located about 375 miles (600 km) above the surface of the Earth. Hubble completes an orbit around the Earth every 97 minutes.

Saturn's main rings could cover almost the entire distance between Earth and the moon, yet they are less than a kilometer (about half-a-mile) thick.

The Interplanetary Monitoring Platform (IMP) spacecraft was retired after 28 years on duty being buffeted by the solar wind and zapped by cosmic rays. Launched on October 25, 1973, IMP 8 was built and operated at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and provided important space physics data as part of NASA's Sun-Earth Connection research program.

Did you know that Jupiter is the largest planet in our Solar System?

Did you know that the Cassini spacecraft can "see" in wavelengths of light and energy that the human eye cannot, and its onboard onboard can "feel" things about magnetic fields and tiny dust particles that no human hand could detect.

NASA missions currently in development, such as Kepler and the Space Interferometry Mission, will be able to study planets more than 6,700 times farther away than Pluto, the most distant planet in our solar system.

Saturn goes around the Sun very slowly, but spins on its axis extremely fast. A Saturn year lasts more than 29 Earth years, but a Saturn day lasts only 10 hours and 14 minutes.

Did you know that the largest single radio telescope dish (1000 ft. wide, 305 m) is located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico?

Unlike Earth, Saturn is made mostly of hydrogen and helium. While it has heavier materials in the core, Saturn has no surface on which you could stand.

Saturn is the only planet in our Solar System that is less dense than water. If you could build a ridiculously large bathtub, Saturn would actually float in it.

Saturn's moon Hyperion (high-PEER-ee-on) is shaped sort of like a hamburger patty and rotates chaotically because of the gravitational influence of nearby Titan, another of Saturn's many moons.

One of the cameras onboard the Cassini spacecraft is so sensitive that it can see a small coin from nearly 4 kilometers (about 2.5 miles) away.

Leonid meteor storms happen when Earth passes through clouds of dusty debris shed by comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle when it comes close to the Sun every 33 years.

A light-year is the distance light can travel in one year. Light moves at a velocity of about 300,000 kilometers (km) each second. So in one year, it can travel about 10 trillion km. More precisely, one light-year is equal to 9,500,000,000,000 kilometers.

The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft is about 4 meters (13.1 feet) wide -- so wide that it would take about seven people with arms outstretched to encircle the spacecraft!

The Mariner series of spacecraft were interplanetary probes designed to investigate Mars, Venus, and Mercury. The program included a number of firsts, including the first planetary flyby, the first planetary orbiter, and the first gravity assist.

The Cassini spacecraft will fly close to Saturn 76 times and visit its moon Titan 45 times. The Huygens probe will have the closest view of Titan, and Titan will be the most distant object from Earth ever to be studied by a probe!

Mars is known as the "Red Planet."

During the long journey to Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft's engines will only burn for about 1 percent of the time. The other 99 percent of the trip is a long un-powered glide through space.

The Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars on July 4, 1997. After landing, the lander was renamed the Sagan Memorial Station. The lander also carried the Sojourner rover.

The small and rocky planet Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. Temperatures on Mercury's surface can reach a scorching 467 degrees Celsius, but because the planet has hardly any atmosphere to keep it warm, nighttime temperatures can drop to a frigid -183 degrees Celsius.

Redstone (suborbital) and Atlas (orbital) were the two launch vehicles that were used to launch the Mercury astronauts.

The Cassini spacecraft will send back to Earth more than 300,000 color images of Saturn, its rings, Titan, and Saturn's other moons. Some 1,100 images of Titan will be taken by the Huygens probe during its swirling descent to Titan.

A meteorite is a rock that enters Earth's atmosphere from outer space and reaches the ground.

Saturn is so far away it will take almost an hour and a half for radio signals from Earth to reach the Cassini spacecraft -- between 68 and 84 minutes, depending on the position of Earth and Saturn. That's a long time, especially if you consider that radio signals travel at the speed of light!

If we could shrink our solar system into the size of a U.S. quarter, the Milky Way galaxy would be the size of North America.

Pan, one of Saturn's smallest moons, orbits within Saturn's A-Ring and helps clear out an area between the rings called the Encke Gap. Scientists believe that if Pan didn't exist, neither would the Encke Gap.

Did you know that 842 lbs. (382 kg) of rocks were brought back from the moon during the Apollo missions?

Newton's Third Law of Motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The three objects in the solar system known to have nitrogen-dominated atmospheres are Earth, Saturn?s moon Titan, and Neptune?s moon Triton.

Saturn's density is only 0.13 that of Earth. (That's because Earth is made of rocks and stuff, and Saturn is pretty much just gas.)

The Pioneer 10 spacecraft was launched on March 2, 1972. It was the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt and to take close-up pictures of Jupiter.

Pluto was discovered on February 18, 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The Italian Space agency built Cassini's high-gain communication antenna. The antenna can transmit in four frequencies at the same time, and it was even used as an umbrella to protect the instruments from the Sun's strong rays during the early part of the mission -- when Cassini was closer to the Sun. That's why the antenna is painted white!

Remote sensing is the process of obtaining information about an object, area, or phenomenon without coming into direct contact with the object being observed.

Driving at 75 miles per hour, it would take 258 days to drive around one of Saturn?s rings.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly between the Sun and the Earth and casts a shadow on the Earth?s surface.

A solar eclipse happens when the Earth passes through the Moon?s shadow.

Does the Sun move? The Sun and the entire solar system revolve around the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The Sun also rotates on its own axis.

If you could see as well as the Wide Field and Planetary Camera on the Hubble Space Telescope, you would be able to read the fine print on a newspaper one mile away!

Did you know that the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft is one of the largest interplanetary spacecraft ever built. It's the third heaviest unmanned spacecraft ever launched into space.

Most of the elements in the human body were created in the inferno of a burning star.

The space between Mars and Jupiter is filled with a population of irregularly shaped chunks of rock and metal called asteroids. Scientists believe the asteroids are pieces of a planet that never formed.

Throughout the Cassini mission, the spacecraft will send more than 300 gigabytes of scientific data back to Earth, which is more than 400 CD-ROMs of information! This data will be examined by more than 250 scientists around the world.

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NASA FACTS - Exploring the Universe


Each Space Shuttle astronaut is allotted 3.8 pounds of food per day (including the one pound of packaging). Foods are individually packaged and stowed for easy handling in the zero gravity of space. All food is precooked or processed so it requires no refrigeration and is either ready to eat or can be prepared simply by adding water or by heating. The only exceptions are the fresh fruit and vegetables stowed in the fresh food locker. Without refrigeration, carrots and celery must be eaten within the first two days of the flight or they will spoil.

Did you know that to apply to be an astronaut a pilot must have completed 1000 hours of flying time in a jet aircraft?

During Apollo 11, the astronauts ate two meals. Meal A was bacon squares, peaches, sugar cookie cubes, coffee, and pineapple-grapefruit drink. Meal B included beef stew, cream of chicken soup, date fruitcake, grape punch, and orange drink.

Snoopy, the Peanuts Comic Strip character is the astronauts' personal safety mascot.

Columbia was the first Space Shuttle that traveled to Earth orbit.

It takes about six hours for a Space Shuttle, aboard a crawler-transporter, to make the trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad preceding a mission.

Explorer 1, the first U.S. Earth-orbiting satellite, was launched January 31, 1958 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch vehicle was an Army Jupiter-C rocket. Explorer 1 orbited the Earth every 115 minutes. Its orbit carried it from a low of about 220 miles to a high of nearly 1,600 miles.

Bessie Coleman, known as "Queen Bess, Daredevil Aviator," was the first African-American woman aviator. She received her pilot's certificate in 1921 in France and learned stunt-flying there. Bessie died in a flying accident in 1926 before she was able to achieve her goal of opening her own flight school. She was honored in 1995 by the U.S. Postal Service with a Black Heritage commemorative stamp.

Eileen M. Collins was the first female commander of the space shuttle. She and her crew launched aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the STS-93 mission in July 1999.

On October 11, 1984 Katherine Sullivan was the first U.S. woman to walk in space. During STS-41G, she and Commander Dave Leestma successfully conducted a 3-1/2 hour Extravehicular Activity (EVA) to demonstrate the feasibility of actual satellite refueling.

The first manned lunar landing mission, Apollo 11, lifted off on July 16, 1969. After Mission Control confirmed that the hardware was working well, Apollo 11 began the three-day trip to the Moon.

Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt from Apollo 17 was the first scientist-astronaut to fly a space mission. He was a geologist.

During Gemini VIII, on March 16, 1966, American astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and David Scott performed the first orbital docking. Their spacecraft docked with an Agena target vehicle, becoming the first coupling of two spacecraft. This was a critical task to master before attempting to land on the Moon, a mission that required several dockings and undockings of spacecraft.

During the second piloted Gemini mission, June 3-7 1965, Gemini IV stayed aloft for four days and astronaut Edward H. White II performed the first EVA (extra-vehicular activity, or spacewalk) by an American.

Apollo 15 (July 26 - August 7, 1971) was the first of the longer, expedition-style lunar landing missions. It was the first to include the lunar rover, which extended the range of the astronauts on the Moon. They brought back 173 pounds of moon rocks, including one of the prize artifacts of the Apollo program, a sample of ancient lunar crust called the "Genesis Rock."

On August 20, 1982 cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman on a space station.

Because the detectors on GALEX are so sensitive, the telescope on GALEX must always be pointed away from the Earth and the Sun. In fact, the detectors are so sensitive that GALEX cannot look at any of the stars that we can see with the naked eye from the ground!

Alan Shepard is the only person to hit a golf ball on the Moon. During the Apollo 14 mission he fitted an 8 iron head to the handle of a lunar sample collection device and launched three golf balls. They are still there!

Do you know how many people have walked on the Moon? Twelve men have walked there -- two each on six different Apollo missions.

The first crew members to live on the International Space Station were Commander Bill Shepherd, Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko, and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev.

The first piece of the International Space Station to be placed into orbit was the Zarya control module. It was placed in orbit in November 1998 by a Russian Proton rocket.

On Feb. 20, 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. He made three Earth revolutions in his capsule named "Friendship 7."

On February 20, 1962 astronaut John Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 "Friendship 7" spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission of the U.S. Launched from Kennedy Space Center, he completed a successful three-orbit mission around the Earth, reaching a maximum altitude (apogee) of approximately 162 statute miles and an orbital velocity of approximately 17,500 miles per hour. Glenn?s "Friendship 7" spacecraft landed approximately 800 miles southeast of Kennedy Space Center. Mission duration from launch to impact was 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds.

On Feb. 20, 1986 the Mir Space Station became the first third-generation Space Station to be launched. Mir means ""peace" or "village" in Russian.

President John F. Kennedy was the United States President who challenged America to land a man on the moon.

American astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.

A manned rocket reaches the Moon in less time than it took a stagecoach to travel the length of England.

The rocket that launched the astronauts to the Moon was a Saturn V rocket.

During a shuttle launch "MECO" means Main Engine Cutoff.

America?s first space station was named Skylab.

Skylab was longer than a twelve-story building and contained almost 12,000 cubic feet of living space.

Can you hear in space? In theory, if there is nothing to receive the sound, there is no sound. Because there are no "air waves" in space to conduct the sound, it would not carry. So, the object would make a noise, but it would not carry to any receiver, and no one would hear it.

The USSR's Soyuz was the first Soviet spacecraft to dock with an American spacecraft.

The Space Shuttle is the world's first reusable spacecraft and the first spacecraft in history that can carry large satellites both to and from orbit. The Shuttle launches like a rocket, maneuvers in Earth orbit like a spacecraft, and lands like an airplane.

The 100th flight in shuttle program history was made by Space Shuttle Columbia.
The Space Shuttle's accomplishments over the past 20 years include: launching 3 million pounds of cargo; transporting more than 600 passengers and pilots; cumulatively spending more than three years in flight; and traveling more than 366 million miles.

Condiments available on the Space Shuttle include salt, pepper, taco sauce, hot pepper sauce, catsup, mayonnaise and mustard.

The Space Shuttle does zero to 17,000 mph in 8.5 minutes. The speed of the gases exiting the Solid Rocket Booster motor is 6,000 mph -- three times the speed of a high-powered rifle.

The Space Shuttle main engine weighs one seventh as much as a train engine but delivers as much horsepower as 39 locomotives.

The Space Shuttle Main Engine operates at greater temperature extremes than any mechanical system in common use today. The fuel, liquefied hydrogen at -423 degrees Fahrenheit (-253 degrees Celsius) is the second coldest liquid on Earth. When it and the liquid oxygen are combusted, the temperature in the main combustion chamber is 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit (3,316 degrees Celsius), hotter than the boiling point of iron.

Did you know that the Space Shuttle makes one complete orbit around the Earth approximately every 90 minutes? The astronauts see one sunrise and one sunset each orbit. There are 16 sunrises/sunsets every 24 hours.

The Space Shuttle travels about 17,600 miles per hour when orbiting the Earth.

The Space Shuttle speed goes from 0 mph to 17,500 mph in 8.5 minutes (this is when the external fuel tank separates from the Shuttle). Two minutes after launch the solid rocket boosters separate; at this time the speed is 3,438 mph and increasing rapidly. While in orbit the Shuttle's speed is 17,500 mph. When reentry or blackout occurs, the Shuttle is traveling at 16,700 mph. After reentry the Shuttle uses Earth's atmosphere to slow down. Landing speed ranges from 213 to 226 mph (343 to 364 kilometers).

Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, Brazil, and the United States are all building parts of the International Space Station.

A spacesuit weighs approximately 280 pounds on the ground -- without the astronaut in it. Of course, it weighs nothing in space. Putting on a spacesuit takes 45 minutes, including the special underwear. After putting on the suit, the astronaut must spend a little over an hour breathing pure oxygen before going outside the pressurized module, in order to adapt to the lower pressure maintained in the spacesuit.

Did you know that the Soviet satellite Sputnik was the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth?

History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world?s first artificial satellite was about the size of a basketball, weighed only 183 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.

Although at first glance it appears wrong, the flag on the shuttle Orbiter is not truly backward. The regulation for displaying a U.S. flag on a national vehicle states that the star field must be positioned at the front of the vessel (the nose cone end of the shuttle), as if the flag were "flying" along the side of the ship. This causes the flag to look as though it were backward on one side of the Shuttle.

The legacy of flying American flags to space started in 1961 with the flight of the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard. Students from Cocoa Beach Elementary School in Florida purchased a flag from a local department store. The flag was rolled up and placed between cables behind Shepard's head inside his Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft.

Why were the first lunar missions nicknamed "Apollo"? At the height of Greek colonization of the ancient world, Apollo was seen as a god who accompanied emigrants and travelers on their way. The name "Apollo" was suggested by Abe Silverstein, an early director of the Lewis Research Center and one of the "founding fathers" of NASA's Manned Spaceflight Center (now Johnson Space Center) in Houston.

Most of the elements found in the human body originated in stars; we are literally made of stardust.

The prototype orbiter Enterprise was used at Dryden to verify the glide and handling qualities of the vehicle following its return into the atmosphere from space.

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NASA FACTS - Exploring the Universe


On March 16, 1926, Dr. Robert H. Goddard successfully launched the first liquid fueled rocket. The launch took place at Auburn, Massachusetts, and is regarded by flight historians to be as significant as the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk.

On October 14, 1947, in the rocket powered Bell X-1, Capt. Charles E. Yeager flew faster than sound for the first time.

Did you know that data from satellite instruments are used by fishermen to find areas where fish are most likely to be found? Fish find food in zones where cold and warm water mix.

Flatfish (halibut, flounder, turbot, and sole) hatch like any other "normal" fish. As they grow, they turn sideways and one eye moves around so they have two eyes on the side that faces up.

Less than three percent of all water on Earth is freshwater (usable for drinking) and of that amount, more than two-thirds is locked up in ice caps and glaciers.

There are more than 326 million trillion gallons of water on Earth.

A geostationary satellite travels at an altitude of approximately 36,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) above the Earth and at a speed of about 11,000 kph (7,000 mph).

On August 29, 1929 the Graf Zeppelin, a rigid airship (or dirigible), completed a historic flight around the world that included a nonstop leg from Friedrichshafen, Germany to Tokyo, Japan -- a distance of almost 7,000 miles. The airship was 100 feet in diameter and 110 feet high, including the gondola bumpers. During its operating life from 1928 to 1937, the Graf Zeppelin made 590 flights, covering more than a million miles. A total of 13,100 passengers were carried without a single injury.

Hurricane names are chosen from a list selected by the World Meteorological Organization. Each name on the list starts with a different letter; for example, the name of the first hurricane of the season starts with A, the next starts with B, and so on. The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used.

Did you know that glaciers, or huge ice sheets, covered large areas of North America and Europe 18,000 years ago? In fact, ice extended as far south as New York and the Ohio River Valley.

Did you know that improved hurricane forecasts, made possible by NASA satellites such as the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), can save as much as $1,000,000 per mile (1.6 km) of coast evacuated?

Landsat was the series of revolutionary satellites that were first launched in 1972 for the purpose of systematically photographing the surface of the Earth from space.

The largest recorded specimen of the blue whale is 33 meters (110 feet) long -- about the height of an 11-story building.

At any given moment, there are 1,800 thunderstorms happening somewhere on Earth. This amounts to 16 million storms each year! We know the cloud conditions that produce lightning, but we cannot forecast the location or time of a lightning strike.

In the mid-1960s the Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed digital image processing to allow computer enhancement of Moon pictures. Similar technology is now used by doctors and hospitals on images of organs in the human body.

A mile, also called a "statute mile," is the unit of distance most U.S. citizens are familiar with. To convert statute miles into kilometers multiply the statute miles by 1.609347.

Before NASA was formed, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was started by President Woodrow Wilson to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight. The NACA determined which problems should be experimentally worked on and discussed their solutions and their application to practical questions. The NACA also directed and conducted research and experiments in aeronautics.

NASA became operational on October 1, 1958 -- one year after the Soviets launched Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite.

The NASA Dryden Flight Research Center is located in Edwards, California.

The B-52B, also known as the Stratofortress, is an air launch carrier aircraft, as well as a research aircraft platform that has been used on research projects. The B-52B was built in the 1950s and is NASA's oldest aircraft.

Sailors were the first to use nautical miles. One nautical mile is equal to one minute of latitude. Maps were drawn to follow this standard and world aviation standards still use the nautical mile. A nautical mile is equivalent to 1.1508 miles, or 6,076 feet, in the English measurement system. To convert nautical miles into kilometers multiply the nautical miles by 1.8520.

Oceans cover almost three-quarters of the Earth. If all the ice in glaciers and ice sheets melted, the sea level would rise by about 80 meters -- about the height of a 26-story building.

Phytoplankton are tiny little plants that drift with the currents throughout the ocean. Did you know that a teaspoon of sea water can contain as many as a million one-celled phytoplankton?

SR-71, also known as the "Blackbird," is the research aircraft used by NASA as a test bed for high-speed, high-altitude aeronautical research. It was secretly designed in the 1950s at Lockheed's Advanced Development Company, commonly known as "Skunk Works."

Have you ever heard a sonic boom? When an airplane travels at a speed faster than sound, density waves of sound emitted by the plane accumulate in a cone behind the plane. When this shock wave passes, a listener hears a sonic boom. Large meteors and the Space Shuttle frequently produce audible sonic booms before they are slowed to below the speed of sound by the Earth's atmosphere.

The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft landed in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans when they returned to Earth.

A satellite is any object that travels around another object, such as the Earth around the sun, or the moon around the Earth. Man-made satellites are machines that are built here on Earth and then launched into space.

The United Nations declared October 4-10, 1999 as World Space Week. These dates commemorate the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

The Wright 1905 Flyer, the first practical airplane, flew for 33 minutes and 17 seconds, covering a distance of 20 miles, on October 4, 1905.

Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first successful flight on December 17, 1903. Wilbur and Orville had two older brothers and a younger sister. None of the Wright children were given a middle name.

The Wright brothers' first flight was shorter than the wingspan of a B-52 bomber.
After the first powered Wright Flyer of 1903 made history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright brothers disassembled it and shipped it to Dayton, Ohio, where it was stored in a shed behind their bicycle shop for more than a decade. In March 1913, Dayton was hit by a serious flood, and the boxes containing the Flyer were submerged in water and mud for 11 days. In the summer of 1916 Orville repaired and reassembled the airplane for brief exhibition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The X-15 aircraft made a total of 199 flights over a period of nearly 10 years from 1959 to 1968. It set unofficial world speed and altitude records of 4,520 mph (Mach 6.7) and 354,200 feet. Information gained from the highly successful program contributed to the development of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft and the Space Shuttle program.

Around the world, the ozone layer averages about 3 millimeters (1/8 inch) thick, approximately the same as two pennies stacked one on top of the other.

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Sunrise Solstice at Stonehenge 0 comments

Today the Sun reaches its northernmost point in planet Earth's sky. Called a solstice, the date traditionally marks a change of seasons -- from spring to summer in Earth's Northern Hemisphere and from fall to winter in Earth's Southern Hemisphere. The above image was taken during the week of the 2008 summer solstice at Stonehenge in United Kingdom, and captures a picturesque sunrise involving fog, trees, clouds, stones placed about 4,500 years ago, and a 5 billion year old large glowing orb. Even given the precession of the Earth's rotational axis over the millennia, the Sun continues to rise over Stonehenge in an astronomically significant way.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Abell 2218: A Galaxy Cluster Lens

Sunday, June 20, 2010 0 comments

What are those strange filaments? Background galaxies. Gravity can bend light, allowing huge clusters of galaxies to act as telescopes, and distorting images of background galaxies into elongated strands. Almost all of the bright objects in this Hubble Space Telescope image are galaxies in the cluster known as Abell 2218. The cluster is so massive and so compact that its gravity bends and focuses the light from galaxies that lie behind it. As a result, multiple images of these background galaxies are distorted into long faint arcs -- a simple lensing effect analogous to viewing distant street lamps through a glass of wine. The cluster of galaxies Abell 2218 is itself about three billion light-years away in the northern constellation of the Dragon (Draco). The power of this massive cluster telescope has allowed astronomers to detect a galaxy at the distant redshift of 5.58.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stereo Itokawa

Saturday, June 19, 2010 0 comments

Get out your red/blue glasses and float next to asteroid Itokawa, a diminutive world of the solar system only half a kilometer across. Boulders strewn across its rough surface and the lack of craters indicate that this asteroid is a rubble pile, formed as smaller pieces collected and were kept together by gravity. The stereo view was constructed from images made by the Hayabusa spacecraft when it encountered the asteroid in 2005. After a long journey, the spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere on June 13 over Australia, successfully parachuting a capsule to Earth. Hayabusa's capsule could contain a small sample of material from rubble pile asteroid Itokawa.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Star Trails and Tajinastes

Friday, June 18, 2010 0 comments

What bizarre planet do these alien creatures inhabit? It's only planet Earth, of course. In this well-composed scene, the sky is filled with star trails around the north celestial pole. A reflection of the Earth's daily rotation on its axis, star trails are familiar to photographers who fix their camera to a tripod and make long exposures of the night sky. But the imposing forms gazing skyward probably look strange to many denizens of Earth. Found on the Canary Island of Tenerife, they are red tajinastes, rare flowering plants that grow to a height of up to 3 meters. Hidden among the rocks of the volcanic terrain, tajinastes bloom in spring and early summer and then die after their seeds mature. On the distant horizon, below and left of the celestial pole, lies the Teide volcano.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Hydrogen in M51

Friday, June 11, 2010 0 comments

Perhaps the original spiral nebula, M51 is a large galaxy, over 60,000 light-years across, with a readily apparent spiral structure. Also cataloged as NGC 5194, M51 is a part of a well-known interacting galaxy pair, its spiral arms and dust lanes clearly sweeping in front of companion galaxy NGC 5195 (top). This dramatically processed color composite combines M51 image data from the Calar Alto Observatory's 1.2 meter telescope. The data include long exposures through a narrow hydrogen alpha filter that trace emission from atomic hydrogen. Reddish hydrogen emission regions, called HII regions, are the regions of intense star formation seen to lie mainly along M51's bright spiral arms. Intriguingly, this composite also shows red hydrogen emission structures in the faint features extending even beyond NGC 5195, toward the top of the frame.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Regulus and the Red Planet

Thursday, June 10, 2010 0 comments

Leo's royal star Regulus and red planet Mars appear in a colorful pairing just above the horizon in this starry skyscape. The photo was taken on June 4th from Oraman, a mountainous region of Kurdistan in western Iran near the border with Iraq. The marked color contrast between Mars and the bright blue star was easy to discern by eye, but is further enhanced in the picture through the use of a diffusion filter. Otherwise dominating the western evening sky, brilliant Venus has already set below the mountains in the scene. Saturn still shines in the night though, farther eastward along the ecliptic plane. Sliding your cursor over the picture will identify the planets, the stars of Leo, and a long-recognized star cluster in Coma Berenices.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Orange Sun Simmering

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 1 comments
Even a quiet Sun can be a busy place. And over the deep Solar Minimum of the past few years, our Sun has been unusually quiet. The above image, taken last week in a single color of light called Hydrogen Alpha and then false colored, records a great amount of detail of the simmering surface of our parent star. The gradual brightening towards the Sun's edge in this color-inverted image, called limb darkening, is caused by increased absorption of relatively cool solar gas. Just over the Sun's edges, several prominences are visible, while two prominences on the Sun's face are seen as light streaks just above and right of the image center. Two particularly active areas of the Sun are marked by dark plages. In contrast to recent quiet times, our Sun is moving toward Solar Maximum, and for years will likely appear much more active.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Comet McNaught Becoming Visible to the Unaided Eye

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 0 comments
A new comet is brightening and is now expected to become visible to the unaided eye later this month. C/2009 R1 (McNaught) is already showing an impressive tail and is currently visible through binoculars. The above image, taken yesterday from the Altamira Observatory in the Canary Islands and spanning about five degrees, shows an impressive green coma and a long ion tail in front of distant star trails. Although predicting the brightness of comets is notoriously difficult, current estimates place Comet McNaught as becoming visible to unaided northern hemisphere observers in late June, before sunrise, and in early July, after sunset. Discovered by Robert McNaught last year, the sun-orbiting iceberg will pass the Earth next week and will continue to melt and shed debris as it closes in on the Sun until early July. After reaching about half of the Earth-Sun distance from the Sun, the comet should fade rapidly as it then heads out of the inner Solar System.

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Falcon 9 Launches to Orbit 0 comments

A new rocket, the Falcon 9, was launched successfully from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, last week. The Falcon 9, standing about as high as a 15-floor building, was developed by the commercial SpaceX corporation as a step toward a relatively inexpensive space launch system. Falcon 9's success follows successful launches of the Falcon 1 last year. Pictured above, a movie of the Falcon 9's launch includes an insect, the launch as viewed from far away, and images from the side of the vehicle which include the separation of the lower stage. When topped with SpaceX's Dragon Cargo or Crew capsule, the Falcon 9 may be used to lift satellites and astronauts to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station in the coming decade.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lunokhod: Reflections on a Moon Robot

Sunday, June 6, 2010 0 comments

It may look like some sort of cute alien robot, but it was created here on Earth, launched to the Moon in 1970, and now reflects laser light in a scientifically useful way. On November 17, 1970 the Soviet Luna 17 spacecraft landed the first roving remote-controlled robot on the Moon. Known as Lunokhod 1, it weighed just under 2,000 pounds and was designed to operate for 90 days while guided in real-time by a five person team near Moscow, USSR. Lunokhod 1 toured the lunar Sea of Rains (Mare Imbrium) for 11 months in one of the greatest successes of the Soviet lunar exploration program. This Lunokhod's operations officially ceased in 1971. Earlier this year, however, the position of the rover was recovered by NASA's moon-orbiting Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Given that position, laser pulses from Earth were successfully bounced off the old robot's reflector. Bouncing laser pulses off of this and other lunar reflectors could yield range data to the moon accurate enough to track millimeter-sized deviations in the Moon's orbit, effectively probing lunar composition and testing gravitational theories.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Jupiter meets Uranus at dawn

Saturday, June 5, 2010 0 comments
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun will be at its highest point in the sky at local noon. Conversely, the ecliptic hangs lowest in the sky at local midnight.
June 21 marks the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This places the Sun at its highest point in the sky at local noon. Conversely, the ecliptic — the apparent path of the Sun and planets across the sky — hangs lowest in the sky at local midnight.

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Thor's Helmet 0 comments

This helmet-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages is popularly called Thor's Helmet. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across. In fact, the helmet is actually more like an interstellar bubble, blown as a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center sweeps through a surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. Cataloged as NGC 2359, the nebula is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. The sharp image, made using broadband and narrowband filters, captures striking details of the nebula's filamentary structures. It shows off a blue-green color from strong emission due to oxygen atoms in the glowing gas.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Hubble Remix: Active Galaxy NGC 1275

Friday, June 4, 2010 0 comments
Active galaxy NGC 1275 is the central, dominant member of the large and relatively nearby Perseus Cluster of Galaxies. Wild-looking at visible wavelengths, the active galaxy is also a prodigious source of x-rays and radio emission. NGC 1275 accretes matter as entire galaxies fall into it, ultimately feeding a supermassive black hole at the galaxy's core. This color composite image, recreated from archival Hubble Space Telescope data, highlights the resulting galactic debris and filaments of glowing gas, some up to 20,000 light-years long. The filaments persist in NGC 1275, even though the turmoil of galactic collisions should destroy them. What keeps the filaments together? Observations indicate that the structures, pushed out from the galaxy's center by the black hole's activity, are held together by magnetic fields. Also known as Perseus A, NGC 1275 spans over 100,000 light years and lies about 230 million light years away.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jupiter from the Stratosphere

Thursday, June 3, 2010 0 comments
SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, captured its "first light" images on May 26, from an altitude of 35,000 feet. While flying above most of planet Earth's infrared-absorbing water vapor, SOFIA's premier infrared views of the cosmos included this remarkable false-color image (right panel) of Jupiter. For comparison, on the left is a recent, ground-based visible light image. Both show our solar system's ruling gas giant without its dark southern equatorial belt (normally seen in the upper hemisphere in this orientation). That familiar feature faded from view early in May. But the bright white stripe in SOFIA's image is a region of Jupiter's clouds transparent to infrared light, offering a glimpse below the cloud tops.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Twisted Meteor Trail Over Tenerife

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 0 comments
Did this meteor take a twisting path? No one is sure. Considered opinions are solicited. Meteors, usually sand sized grains that originate in comets, will typically disintegrate as they enter the Earth's atmosphere. A fast moving meteor ionizes molecules in the Earth's atmosphere that subsequently glow when they reacquire electrons. Meteor paths that twist noticeably have been noted before, and even photographed, but attributing such behavior to the motion of the meteor itself and neither the wind-blown meteor train nor the observer remains somewhat controversial. The above meteor, imaged two weeks ago streaking over the Teide Observatory in Tenerife, Canary Islands, appears to swagger as much as several minutes of arc, which the experienced astrophotographer did not think could be attributed to drifting of the resulting train or motion of the camera mount. If truly an indication of a twisted meteor path, an underlying reason could be the pictured meteor was markedly non-spherical in shape, non-uniform in composition, or electrically charged. Non-uniform meteors, for example, may evaporate more on one side than another, causing a rotating meteor to wobble. Understanding meteors is important partly because meteors are candidates to have seeded Earth with prebiotic molecules that allowed for the development of life.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Heart and Soul Nebulas in Infrared

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 0 comments

Is the heart and soul of our Galaxy located in Cassiopeia? Possibly not, but that is where two bright emission nebulas nicknamed Heart and Soul can be found. The Heart Nebula, officially dubbed IC 1805 and visible in the above right, has a shape in optical light reminiscent of a classical heart symbol. The above image, however, was taken in infrared light by the recently launched WISE telescope. Infrared light penetrates well inside the vast and complex bubbles created by newly formed stars in the interior of these two massive star forming regions. Studies of stars and dust like those found in the Heart and Soul Nebulas have focussed on how massive stars form and how they affect their environment. Light takes about 6,000 years to reach us from these nebulas, which together span roughly 300 light years.

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