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Shuttle tank returned
Shuttle fuel tank ET-119 is loaded onto a barge at Kennedy Space Center for the trip back to Lockheed Martin's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The tank will be used in the investigation to determine why foam peeled away from Discovery's tank on STS-114 in July.
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Mounted atop a modified Boeing 747, space shuttle Discovery was ferried across the country from Edwards Air Force Base, California, to Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Delta 4 launch delayed
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Shuttle delayed to 2006
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier hold a news conference from Agency Headquarters in Washington on August 18 to announce a delay in the next shuttle flight from September to next March. (38min 02sec)
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Launch pad demolition
Explosives topple the abandoned Complex 13 mobile service tower at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This video was shot from the blockhouse roof at neighboring Complex 14 where John Glenn was launched in 1962.
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A Chinese dragon and a knotted galactic embrace
GEMINI OBSERVATORY NEWS RELEASE
Posted: August 27, 2005
The Gemini Observatory has released a pair of images that capture the dynamics of two very
different interactions in space. One is a cold, dark dust cloud that resembles an ethereal-looking Chinese dragon. The other shows a distant duo of galaxies locked in a knot-like embrace that could portend the long-term future of our own Milky Way galaxy.
The processes shown in these views occur on a
tremendous range of size scales. NGC 6559 is a
relatively small, nearby dust cloud in our Milky Way
galaxy that measures about seven light-years
across, while NGC 520 features two completely
entwined galaxies that stretch across 150,000
light-years. While both images hint at how dynamic
and active these objects can be, their evolution
occurs on astronomical timescales. According to
Ian Robson, Director of the UK's Astronomy
Technology Center, "If we could see either of these
objects as an extreme time-lapse movie made over
millions of years, the galaxy pair would dance in a
graceful orbital embrace that is likely similar to the
fate between our Milky Way and the great
Andromeda Galaxy, while the dusty cloud would
probably resemble waving smoke from an
NGC 6559 is part of a larger star-forming region in the southern constellation Sagittarius. The dark structure that resembles a Chinese dragon is caused by cool dust that absorbs background radiation from hydrogen gas that glows in red light due to ionization from nearby stars. This region lies less than one degree away from the popular Lagoon Nebula (M8), and is located some 5,000 light-years away toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. At this distance the length of the cloud (diagonally across the image) is about 7 light-years. Credit: Gemini Observatory
Download larger image version here
Together, these Gemini images illustrate
another point about the universe: it's dusty. The
main features of NGC 6559 that lend this nebula its
Chinese dragon appearance are dark clouds of
backlit dust. The merging galaxies also show a
prominent dust lane running diagonally across the
image. In both cases this dust is visible because it
blocks the light from behind it much like a cloud
obscures sunlight here on Earth.
The two images were selected based on
observations made during the first half of 2005 at
each of the twin Gemini telescopes.
"I coordinated observations in Chile when the
dragon-like images of NGC 6559 were obtained,"
said Gemini South Astronomer Rodrigo Carrasco.
"I could tell this was going to make a fantastic color
image with lots of details never resolved before in
this cloud of dust. Other astronomers will
appreciate this data now that it is in the Gemini
Gemini North on Mauna Kea captured the image of
NGC 520, showing two interacting galaxies against
a backdrop of dimmer much more distant galaxies.
Gemini Astronomer Kathy Roth oversaw the
observations and shared her reactions. "Watching
images like these come off the telescope is always
a thrill. It is very satisfying to have everything
working perfectly and to be able to take advantage
of the great conditions on Mauna Kea," she said.
"This particular image not only makes a pretty
picture but I expect it will be useful to astronomers
who model interacting galaxies and how these
interactions trigger star formation."
NGC 520 has a unique shape that is the result of two galaxies colliding with each other. One galaxy's dust lane can be seen easily in the foreground and a distinct tail is visible at bottom center. These features are a result of the gravitational interactions that have robbed both of the galaxies of their original shapes. Some astronomers speculate that each member of the pair was originally similar to the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxy. This collision could be providing us a glimpse at what might happen to our own galaxy in about five billion years as the Andromeda Galaxy collides with our Milky Way. Credit: Gemini Observatory
Download larger image version here
The pair of images were obtained using the Gemini
Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS). It provides
high-resolution imaging on both of the twin Gemini
8-meter telescopes. The observations are part of
the ongoing Gemini Legacy Imaging program that
shares striking views of the universe made
possible with the new generation of large ground-
based telescopes. Travis Rector of the University
of Alaska combined the raw data to create the