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Saturn's spongy moon
Stunning images of Saturn's moon Hyperion taken by the Cassini spacecraft show a surface dotted with craters and modified by some process, not yet understood, to create a strange, "spongy" appearance, unlike the surface of any other moon around the ringed planet.

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Astronaut parade
The astronauts from space shuttle Discovery's return to flight mission recently paid a visit to Japan, the homeland of mission specialist Souichi Noguchi, and were treated to a grand parade.

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ISS command change
The International Space Station's outgoing Expedition 11 crew and the new Expedition 12 crew gather inside the Destiny laboratory module for a change of a command ceremony, complete with ringing of the outpost's bell, as the human presence in space continues.

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Expedition 11 in review
The Expedition 11 mission of commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips aboard the International Space Station is winding down, and this narrated retrospective looks back at the key events of the half-year voyage in orbit.

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Pluto spacecraft
The Pluto New Horizons spacecraft, destined to become the first robotic probe to visit Pluto and its moon Charon, arrives at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in advance of its January blastoff.

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Life on the station
NASA astronauts Bill McArthur and John Phillips chat with Associated Press space reporter Marcia Dunn about life aboard the International Space Station in this live space-to-Earth interview from the Destiny laboratory module on October 5.

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West Coast Delta 4
In preparation for the West Coast launch of Boeing's next-generation Delta 4 rocket, the two-stage vehicle is rolled out of its horizontal hangar and driven to the Space Launch Complex-6 pad for erection. The nose cone for the NRO payload is then brought to the pad.

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West Coast shuttle
Boeing's Delta 4 rocket pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base was renovated in recent years, transforming Space Launch Complex-6 from the West Coast space shuttle launch site into a facility for the next-generation unmanned booster. This collection of footage shows the 1985 launch pad test using NASA's orbiter Enterprise.

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Lady in red: Andromeda shines in Spitzer's eyes
Posted: October 14, 2005

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Ariz.
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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has captured a stunning infrared view of Messier 31, the famous spiral galaxy also known as Andromeda.

Andromeda is the most-studied galaxy outside our own Milky Way, yet Spitzer's sensitive infrared eyes have detected captivating new features, including bright, aging stars and a spiral arc in the center of the galaxy. The infrared image also reveals an off-centered ring of star formation and a hole in the galaxy's spiral disk of arms. These asymmetrical features may have been caused by interactions with the several satellite galaxies that surround Andromeda.

"Occasionally small satellite galaxies run straight through bigger galaxies," said Dr. Karl Gordon of the Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, lead investigator of the new observation. "It appears a little galaxy punched a hole through Andromeda's disk, much like a pebble breaks the surface of a pond."

Approximately 2.5 million light-years away, Andromeda is the closest spiral galaxy and is the only one visible to the naked eye. Unlike our Milky Way galaxy, which we view from the inside, Andromeda is studied from the outside. Astronomers believe that Andromeda and the Milky Way will eventually merge together.

Spitzer detects dust heated by stars in the galaxy. Its multiband imaging photometer's 24-micron detector recorded approximately 11,000 separate infrared snapshots over 18 hours to create the new comprehensive mosaic. This instrument's resolution and sensitivity is a vast improvement over previous infrared technologies, enabling scientists to trace the spiral structures within Andromeda to an unprecedented level of detail.

"In contrast to the smooth appearance of Andromeda at optical wavelengths, the Spitzer image reveals a well-defined nuclear bulge and a system of spiral arms," said Dr. Susan Stolovy, a co-investigator from the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

The galaxy's central bulge glows in the light emitted by warm dust from old, giant stars. Just outside the bulge, a system of inner spiral arms can be seen, and outside this, a well-known prominent ring of star formation.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a division of Caltech.