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Pluto New Horizons
Check out NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft undergoing thermal blanket installation inside the cleanroom at Kennedy Space Center's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility in preparation for launch in January from the Cape.

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Mountains of creation
A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveals billowing mountains of dust ablaze with the fires of stellar youth. The majestic infrared view from Spitzer resembles the iconic "Pillars of Creation" picture taken of the Eagle Nebula in visible light by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

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Space history: STS-51A
This week marks the anniversary of arguably the most daring and complex space shuttle mission. The astronauts successfully launched two satellites and then recovered two others during extraordinary spacewalks by astronauts using jet-propelled backpacks and pure muscle power.

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Space station EVA
Commander Bill McArthur and flight engineer Valery Tokarev conduct a 5 1/2-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station, installing a TV camera, doing repair chores and jettisoning a failed science probe.

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The Earth from space
Return to flight space shuttle commander Eileen Collins narrates an interesting slide show featuring some favorite photographs of Earth taken during her previous shuttle missions.

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Griffin testifies
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin goes before the U.S. House of Representative's Science Committee to provide an update on the moon-Mars exploration program, the future of the space shuttle and space station, possible servicing of Hubble, cost overruns on the James Webb Space Telescope and the agency's aeronautics research.

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Dale 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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Spitzer space observatory harvests dozens of new stars
Posted: November 15, 2005

Just in time for Thanksgiving, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has harvested a bounty of young stars. A new infrared image of the reflection nebula NGC 1333, located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, reveals dozens of stars like the Sun but much younger.

The star-forming region NGC 1333 contains dozens of new stars like the Sun but less than 1 million years old. Spitzer's IRAC camera reveals those stars, as well as warm dust glowing red and bright green shock fronts in this color-coded infrared image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Gutermuth & A. Porras (CfA)
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"These newborns are less than a million years old - babies by astronomical standards," said Rob Gutermuth of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "Our Sun may have formed in a similar environment 4.5 billion years ago."

Most of the visible light from the region's young stars is obscured by the dusty cloud in which they formed. With Spitzer, astronomers can detect infrared light from these objects, allowing them to peer through the dust and gain a more detailed understanding of how stars like our Sun are born.

Spitzer's infrared view of NGC 1333 uncovered streaks and splotches of nebulosity that appear green in this color-coded image. These features are glowing shock fronts where jets of material spewed from the youngest protostars have rammed into the cold natal gas cloud. By stirring up the cold gas, these jets may eventually clear away the gas, shutting down future star formation.

"The sheer number of separate jets that appear in this region is unprecedented," said Alicia Porras of CfA. "Sorting through them and untangling them will prove quite a challenge as we try to identify which protostar is the source of each jet."

In contrast, the upper portion of NGC 1333 is dominated by infrared light from warm dust, shown as red in this image. In this area, young stars have already dispersed the surrounding material, opening up a cavity in the side of the cloud. Ultraviolet light from the more massive stars located there is heating the dust along the edge of the cavity and causing it to glow.

In addition to the nebulosity, detailed analysis of the infrared light from the young stars in NGC 1333 reveals that about 80 are surrounded by discs of dusty material where new planets may be forming. The entire group of objects spans only 4 light-years. In contrast, only one star system (containing three stars) lies within 4 light-years of the Sun.

"If our solar system were located inside NGC 1333, our night sky would look very different," said Gutermuth. "We would see fewer stars since any distant stars would be hidden by the nearby dust. We would need an instrument like Spitzer to see out of the nebula."

The newborn stars within NGC 1333 don't reside in a single cluster, but instead are split between two sub-groups: one group to the north, near the red nebulosity, and the other to the south, near the green shocks.

"With the sharp infrared eyes of Spitzer, we can look for differences between these two groups of stars," said Porras. "The results could reveal hints of the star-forming history of this region."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center built Spitzer's Infrared Array Camera, which took the observations. The instrument's principal investigator is Giovanni Fazio of CfA.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.