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Senate hearing
The Senate Commerce Committee holds a confirmation hearing on President Bush's nomination of Shana Dale to be the new NASA deputy administrator, replacing former astronaut Fred Gregory.

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Astronaut Q&A
As NASA celebrates five years of continuous human presence aboard the International Space Station, former resident astronauts from Expedition crews who lived aboard the outpost held this recent question and answer session at the Johnson Space Center.

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Shuttle engine test
For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi conducts a test-firing of a space shuttle main engine. The engine was run as part of a certification series on the Advanced Health Management System, which monitors engine performance.

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Edwards air show
Edwards Air Force Base hosted an open house and air show this past weekend. NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center demonstrated some of its specialized aircraft -- a highly modified NF-15B, a high-altitude ER-2, and F/A-18 and T-34. On the ground, a variety of specialized air and space vehicles were on display in the NASA exhibit, ranging from the Mars rovers to the 747 space shuttle carrier aircraft.

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ISS science 'suitcases'
Scientists eagerly examine suitcase-like packages, called the Materials International Space Station Experiments, or MISSEs, after return to Earth. The MISSE packages were flown outside the orbiting station to expose different materials to the space environments for study.

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Tracking hurricanes
This 2005 Atlantic hurricane season has a been a record-breaker. Satellite imagery since June 1 has been compiled into this movie to track the 21 named storms as they formed and traveled, many making landfall.

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Hurricane Wilma
International Space Station cameras captured this incredible video of Hurricane Wilma and its well-defined eye from an altitude of 220 miles. Wilma was packing winds of 175 miles an hour as a Category 5 storm when the station flew overhead.

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Hubble examines moon
NASA has used the Hubble Space Telescope for scientific observations of the Earth's moon in the search for important oxygen-bearing minerals -- potential resources for human exploration. Scientists held this news conference on October 19 to discuss their investigations.

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Fuel tank leaves KSC
Space shuttle external fuel tank No. 120 is moved out of Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building and loaded onto a barge for transport to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Once there, the tank will undergo modifications prior to being returned to Florida for a future launch.

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Space shuttle update
Space shuttle program officials Friday held a news conference at the Johnson Space Center to provide a status report on efforts to understand and fix the external tank foam insulation problems and confirm that the next launch won't happen before May 2006.

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Light seen from possibly first objects in universe
Posted: November 2, 2005

Scientists using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope say they have detected light that may be from the earliest objects in the universe. If confirmed, the observation provides a glimpse of an era more than 13 billion years ago when, after the fading embers of the theorized Big Bang gave way to millions of years of pervasive darkness, the universe came alive.

The top panel is an image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope of stars and galaxies in the constellation Draco, covering about 50 by 100 million light-years (6 to 12 arcminutes). This is an infrared image showing wavelengths of 3.6 microns, below what the human eye can detect. The bottom panel is the resulting image after all the stars, galaxies and artifacts were masked out. The remaining background has been enhanced to reveal a glow that is not attributed to galaxies or stars. This might be the glow of the first stars in the universe. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/A. Kashlinsky (GSFC)
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This light could be from the very first stars or perhaps from hot gas falling into the first black holes. The science team, based at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., describes the observation as seeing the glow of a distant city at night from an airplane. The light is too distant and feeble to resolve individual objects.

"We think we are seeing the collective light from millions of the first objects to form in the universe," said Dr. Alexander Kashlinsky, Science Systems and Applications scientist and lead author on the Nature article that appears in the Nov. 3 issue. "The objects disappeared eons ago, yet their light is still traveling across the universe."

Scientists theorize that space, time and matter originated 13.7 billion years ago in a Big Bang. Another 200 million years would pass before the era of first starlight. A 10-hour observation by Spitzer's infrared array camera in the constellation Draco captured a diffuse glow of infrared light, lower in energy than optical light and invisible to us. The Goddard team says that this glow is likely from Population III stars, a hypothesized class of stars thought to have formed before all others. (Population I and II stars, named by order of their discovery, comprise the familiar types of stars we see at night.)

Theorists say the first stars were likely over a hundred times more massive than Earth's sun and extremely hot, bright, and short-lived, each one burning for only a few million years. The ultraviolet light that Population III stars emitted would be redshifted, or stretched to lower energies, by the universe's expansion. That light should now be detectable in the infrared.

"This deep observation was filled with familiar-looking stars and galaxies," said Dr. John Mather, senior project scientist for James Webb Space Telescope and a co-author on the Nature article. "We removed everything we knew---all the stars and galaxies both near and far. We were left with a picture of part of the sky with no stars or galaxies, but it still had this infrared glow with giant blobs that we think could be the glow from the very first stars."

This new Spitzer discovery agrees with observations from the NASA Cosmic Background Explorer satellite from the 1990s that suggested there may be an infrared background that could not be attributed to known stars. It also supports observations from the NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe from 2003, which estimated that stars first ignited 200 million to 400 million years after the Big Bang.

"This difficult measurement pushes the instrument to performance limits that were not anticipated in its design," said team member Dr. S. Harvey Moseley, instrument scientist for Spitzer. "We have worked very hard to rule out other sources for the signal we observed."

The low noise and high resolution of Spitzer's infrared array camera enabled the team to remove the fog of foreground galaxies, made of later stellar populations, until the cumulative light from the first light dominated the signal on large angular scales. The team, which also includes Dr. Richard Arendt, Science Systems and Applications scientist, noted that future missions, such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, will find the first individual clumps of these stars or the individual exploding stars that might have made the first black holes.

This analysis was partially funded through the National Science Foundation. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer mission for NASA. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. NASA Goddard built Spitzer's infrared array camera which took the observations. The instrument's principal investigator is Dr. Giovanni Fazio, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Mass. Scientists Kashlinsky and Arendt are supported at NASA Goddard through funding from Science Systems and Applications, Inc.