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Atlantis to hangar
After its safe landing to end mission STS-115, space shuttle Atlantis is towed from the Kennedy Space Center runway to hangar 1 of the Orbiter Processing Facility for post-flight deservicing and the start of preparations leading to its next mission, STS-117.


STS-115 landing
Space shuttle Atlantis glides to a smooth touchdown on Kennedy Space Center's Runway 33 at 6:21 a.m. to conclude the successful STS-115 mission that restarted construction of the space station.


Soyuz TMA-9 docking
The Russian Soyuz TMA-9 space capsule carrying the Expedition 14 resident crew and space tourist Anousheh Ansari safely docks to the International Space Station's Zvezda service module.


Expedition 14 launch
This extended duration movie follows the Soyuz rocket from the final countdown through arrival in orbit with the Expedition 14 crew. The video shows the three-stage rocket's ascent from Baikonur Cosmodrome and includes views of Mike Lopez-Alegria, Mikhail Tyurin and Anousheh Ansari from cameras inside the capsule.


Mission of Expedition 14
The voyage of Expedition 14 aboard the International Space Station is expected to see major construction activities for the outpost. Learn more about the mission in this narrated mission preview movie.


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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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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Stellar birth control in the early universe
Posted: October 2, 2006

An international team of astronomers based at Yale and Leiden University in The Netherlands found that "old stars" dominated many large galaxies in the early universe, raising the new question of why these galaxies progressed into "adulthood" so early in the life of the universe.

Every year only a handful of new stars are born out of the gas that fills the space between the stars in galaxies like the Milky Way. To account for the large number of stars in the Universe today, about 400 billion in the Milky Way alone, it was thought that the "stellar birth rate" must have been much higher in the past.

Surprisingly, in this study appearing in the October 2 issue of Astrophysical Journal, astronomers using the 8.1m Gemini telescope in Chile report that many of the largest galaxies in the Universe had a very low stellar birth rate even when the Universe was only about 20 percent of its present age.

"Our new results imply that the stars in many large galaxies were born when the Universe was in its infancy, in the first few billion years after the Big Bang," said team leader Mariska Kriek, a PhD student from Leiden University and Yale. "The results confirm what some astronomers had suspected - galaxies seem to have some method of 'birth control' that is very effective."

These new findings add to growing evidence that in big galaxies the formation of new stars was significantly suppressed after an initial period of vigorous activity. "These galaxies had a very violent early youth, but rose into stable adulthood well before many galaxies like the Milky Way were even in kindergarten," said Kriek."

The astronomers used the uniquely powerful Gemini Near Infrared Spectrograph, to analyze the light of distant galaxies simultaneously over many different wavelengths. They studied 20 galaxies so distant that their light had been traveling for nearly 11 billion years, or 80 percent of the age of the Universe.

"The unexpected finding is what was not found - we expected to see a prominent signal from ionized Hydrogen, the tell-tale signature of star birth. Remarkably, for nine of the twenty galaxies that we observed, this signature is not seen at all," said Pieter van Dokkum, associate professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University. "It gives a firm limit on the stellar birth rate in these objects."

One suggestion is that enormous black holes in the centers of large galaxies may be responsible for suppressing star formation. When material spirals into a black hole, huge amounts of energy are released and are rapidly injected into the galaxy's gas. This energy injection may dilute the gas sufficiently to prevent future star birth.

"Evidence for the presence of these black holes is seen in several of the galaxies studied, lending support to the idea that black holes serve as cosmic contraceptives in the young Universe," said van Dokkum.

The research was funded by the Netherlands Foundation for Research, the Leids Kerkhoven-Bosscha Fonds, the National Science Foundation, and NASA. Other authors on the paper were Ryan Quadri, Eric Gawiser, David Herrera, Danilo Marchesini and C. Megan Urry from Yale; Marijn Franx, Edward N. Taylor and Stijn Wuyts from Leiden; Garth D. Illingworth, University of California, Santa Cruz; Ivo Labbe, Carnegie Observatories, Pasadena, CA; Paulina Lira, Universidad de Chile; Hans-Walter Rix, Max-Planck-Institute fur Astronomie; Gregory Rudnick, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, AZ and Sune Toft, European Southern Observatory, Munchen, Germany.