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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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Hubble captures a rare eclipse on Uranus
Posted: August 31, 2006

Credit: NASA, ESA, L. Sromovsky (University of Wisconsin, Madison), H. Hammel (Space Science Institute), and K. Rages (SETI)
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This image is a never-before-seen astronomical alignment of a moon traversing the face of Uranus, and its accompanying shadow. The white dot near the center of Uranus' blue-green disk is the icy moon Ariel. The 700-mile-diameter satellite is casting a shadow onto the cloud tops of Uranus. To an observer on Uranus, this would appear as a solar eclipse, where the moon briefly blocks out the Sun as its shadow races across Uranus's cloud tops.

Though such "transits" by moons across the disks of their parents are commonplace for some other gas giant planets, such as Jupiter, the satellites of Uranus orbit the planet in such a way that they rarely cast shadows on the planet's surface. Uranus is tilted so that its spin axis lies nearly in its orbital plane. The planet is essentially tipped over on its side. During the course of its orbit around the Sun, first one pole and then the other is alternately illuminated. As a result, Uranus has extreme seasons during its 84-year orbit around the Sun. The moons of Uranus orbit the planet above the equator, so their paths align edge-on to the Sun only every 42 years.

This transit has never been observed before because Uranus is just now approaching its 2007 equinox when the Sun will shine directly over the giant planet's equator. The last time a Uranian equinox occurred, when transits could have been observed, was in 1965. However, telescopes of that era did not have the image sharpness required to view satellite transits on Uranus. When Hubble was launched in 1990, the Sun was shining over Uranus's far northern latitudes. Over the past decade Hubble astronomers have seen the Sun's direct illumination creep toward equatorial latitudes and the moons' orbits approach an edge-on configuration.

Ariel, named for a mischievous airy spirit in Shakespeare's "The Tempest," is only one-third the size of Earth's moon. Ariel is the nearest large satellite to Uranus. As Uranus approaches equinox, there will be additional eclipses by the large moons Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon, and by many smaller moons.

This illustrates the relative sizes of Uranus, Earth and Earth's Moon. The images are shown at the proper relative size. Uranus is approximately 31,000 miles in diameter, or about four times the size of Earth. The Earth is approximately 7,900 miles in diameter, or about four times the diameter of the Moon, 2,100 miles. Credit: NASA, ESA, and L. Sromovsky
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Lawrence A. Sromovsky of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Heidi B. Hammel of the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado, and Kathy A. Rages of the SETI Institute, Mountain View, California, created this color composite image from images at three wavelengths in near infrared light obtained with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys on July 26, 2006.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. The Space Telescope Science Institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington.