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STS-31: Opening window to the Universe
The Hubble Space Telescope has become astronomy's crown jewel for knowledge and discovery. The great observatory was placed high above Earth following its launch aboard space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990. The astronauts of STS-31 recount their mission in this post-flight film presentation.
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Atlantis on the pad
Space shuttle Atlantis is delivered to Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39B on August 2 to begin final preparations for blastoff on the STS-115 mission to resume construction of the International Space Station.
Atlantis rollout begins
Just after 1 a.m. local time August 2, the crawler-transporter began the slow move out of the Vehicle Assembly Building carrying space shuttle Atlantis toward the launch pad.
ISS EVA preview
Astronauts Jeff Williams and Thomas Reiter will conduct a U.S.-based spacewalk outside the International Space Station on August 3. To preview the EVA and the tasks to be accomplished during the excursion, station managers held this press conference from Johnson Space Center in Houston.
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STS-34: Galileo launch
The long voyage of exploration to Jupiter and its many moons by the Galileo spacecraft began on October 18, 1989 with launch from Kennedy Space Center aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. The crew of mission STS-34 tell the story of their flight to dispatch the probe -- fitted with an Inertial Upper Stage rocket motor -- during this post-flight presentation film.
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Atlantis on the move
Space shuttle Atlantis is transported to the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building where the ship will be mated to the external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters for a late-August liftoff.
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Discovery ride along!
A camera was mounted in the front of space shuttle Discovery's flight deck looking back at the astronauts during launch. This video shows the final minutes of the countdown and the ride to space with the live launch audio included. The movie shows what it would be like to launch on the shuttle with the STS-121 crew.
Shuttle from the air
A high-altitude WB-57 aircraft flying north of Discovery's launch trajectory captures this incredible aerial footage of the space shuttle's ascent from liftoff through solid rocket booster separation.
This is the full launch experience! The movie begins with the final readiness polls of the launch team. Countdown clocks then resume ticking from the T-minus 9 minute mark, smoothly proceeding to ignition at 2:38 p.m. Discovery rockets into orbit, as seen by ground tracker and a video camera mounted on the external tank. About 9 minutes after liftoff, the engines shut down and the tank is jettisoned as the shuttle arrives in space.
Delta 2 launches MiTEx
MiTEx -- an experimental U.S. military project to test whether the advanced technologies embedded in two miniature satellites and a new upper stage kick motor can operate through the rigors of spaceflight -- is launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket.
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Mystery of Quintuplet stars in Milky Way solved
ROCHESTER INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY NEWS RELEASE
Posted: August 17, 2006
For the first time, scientists have identified the cluster of Quintuplet stars in the Milky Way's galactic center, next to the super massive black hole, as massive binary stars nearing the end of their life cycle, solving a mystery that had dogged astronomers for more than 15 years.
The nature of the stars was not entirely clear until now. In a paper
published in the Aug. 18 issue of Science, co-authors Peter Tuthill of the
University of Sydney and Donald Figer of Rochester Institute of Technology
show that the Quintuplet cluster consists of young massive binary stars
that produce large amounts of dust. Their data reveal that five bright red
stars are nearing the end of their "short" lives of approximately 5
million years. These quickly evolving stars burn fast and bright, but die
younger than fainter stars, which live for billions of years. The study
captures the Quintuplet stars just before disintegrating in supernovae
A Yin and Yang in the Galactic Center. High-resolution infrared images of the dusty pinwheel nebulae are shown inset overlaid on a Hubble Space Telescope image of the Quintuplet cluster. Each of the five bright red stars is now thought to be a pinwheel nebula. Credit: Peter Tuthill (Sydney U.), Keck Observatory, Donald Figer (RIT).
Using advanced imaging techniques on the world's biggest telescope at the
W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the scientists captured the stars at the
highest attainable resolution for the instrument, far exceeding the
capability of the Hubble Space Telescope, which imaged the cluster a decade
ago. The extra-resolution gives scientists a new glimpse of the dust plumes
surrounding the stars and the swirling spirals Tuthill likened to pinwheels
when he identified the first one in 1999 elsewhere in the galaxy.
"Only a few pinwheels are known in the galaxy," Figer says. "The point is,
we've found five all next to each other in the same cluster. No one has
seen anything like this before."
According to Figer, the swirling dust in pinwheel stars is key to the
presence of the most evolved massive stars and points to the presence of
pairs of stars. The geometry of the plume allows scientists to measure the
properties of the binary stars, including the orbital period and distance.
"The only way that pinwheels can form is if they have two stars, swirling
around each other. The stars are so close that their winds collide, forming
dust in a spiral shape, just like water sprayed from a garden hose of a
twirling sprinkler," Figer says. "A single star wouldn't be able to produce
the dust and wouldn't have the spiral outflow."
An earlier study by Figer in 1996 claimed the Quintuplet cluster consists
of evolved massive stars that produce dust. Figer's research could not be
confirmed until now with the use of the Keck telescope.
"If you want to understand star formation, you have to understand if they
are forming alone or if they have partners," Figer says. "The answer gives
us a clue as to whether stars form alone or with companions."
Other scientists involved with the study include John Monnier of University
of Michigan, Angelle Tanner of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Andrea Ghez
of University of California and William Danchi of NASA Goddard Space
Grants from the Australian Research Council, the National Science
Foundation Stellar Astronomy and Astrophysics Program, and the NASA
Long-term Space Astrophysics Program supported this project.