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Expedition 15
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft with Expedition 15 cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, along with tourist Charles Simonyi, fly to the space station following launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

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STS-61: Fixing Hubble
One of the most daunting yet crucial human spaceflights occurred in December 1993 as the crew of shuttle Endeavour embarked on a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The observatory had been launched three-and-a-half years earlier with a crippling vision flaw. Two teams of spacewalkers carried out five EVAs to install corrective optics and other equipment to fix the telescope's problems. The astronauts take you through the mission in this post-flight film.


STS-51: Satellite technology launch
Narrating a highlights film from their STS-51 mission, the shuttle astronauts from Discovery's September 1993 flight describe launching the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite with its Transfer Orbit Stage plus the deployment and retrieval of the Shuttle Pallet Satellite carrying the German ORFEUS ultraviolet telescope. TV and IMAX cameras on the SPAS craft provide stunning views of the shuttle. A spacewalk also occurs to test tools and procedures for the upcoming first servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope.


The Flight of Apollo 7
This documentary looks back at Apollo 7, the first manned flight of the Apollo program. Apollo 7 was designated as the essential engineering test of the spacecraft before the ambitious lunar missions could be attempted.


Running the Boston Marathon in space
NASA astronaut Suni Williams will run the Boston Marathon on a treadmill aboard the International Space Station. To preview the event, Williams, an accomplished marathoner, and Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria talk with The Boston Globe and the New England Sports Network.


Exercising on ISS
International Space Station Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and flight engineer Suni Williams give a show-and-tell about the exercise equipment and routines aboard the orbiting complex.


STS-57: EURECA retrieved
After nearly a year in space, the European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) satellite was plucked from orbit and stowed aboard Endeavour for return to Earth during STS-57. The June 1993 mission also featured the first flight of the commercial Spacehab module outfitted with a range of microgravity experiments for the crew to use. A spacewalk to demonstrate working on the end of the shuttle robot arm was performed as well.


STS-56: Sun and Earth
Working in two shifts around the clock, the astronauts of shuttle mission STS-56 conducted extensive observations of the Earth's atmosphere using the ATLAS 2 payload in the spring of 1993. The SPARTAN Sun-studying satellite was deployed and then retrieved during Discovery's flight too. The crew narrates the highlights in this presentation.


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Brown dwarfs: A new class
of stellar lighthouse

Posted: April 17, 2007

Brown dwarfs, thought just a few years ago to be incapable of emitting any significant amounts of radio waves, have been discovered putting out extremely bright "lighthouse beams" of radio waves, much like pulsars. A team of astronomers made the discovery using the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope.

Artist's impression of the "super-aurorae" present at the magnetic poles of these brown dwarfs where the extremely bright beams of radiation originate. These beams of sweep Earth once each time the dwarf rotates, producing the periodic pulses. Credit: Hallinan et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF
"These beams rotate with the brown dwarf, and we see them when the beam passes over the Earth. This is the same way we see pulses from pulsars," said Gregg Hallinan of the National University of Ireland Galway. "We now think brown dwarfs may be a missing link between pulsars and planets in our own Solar System, which also emit, but more weakly," he added.

Brown dwarfs are enigmatic objects that are too small to be stars but too large to be planets. They are sometimes called "failed stars" because they have too little mass to trigger hydrogen fusion reactions at their cores, the source of the energy output in larger stars. With roughly 15 to 80 times the mass of Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar System, brown dwarfs were long thought to exist. However, it was not until 1995 that astronomers were able to actually find one. A few dozen now are known.

In 2001, a group of summer students at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory used the VLA to observe a brown dwarf, even though they had been told by seasoned astronomers that brown dwarfs are not observable at radio wavelengths. Their discovery of a strong flare of radio emission from the object surprised astronomers and the students' scientific paper on the discovery was published in the prestigous scientific journal Nature.

Hallinan and his team observed a set of brown dwarfs with the VLA last year, and found that three of the objects emit extremely strong, repeating pulses of radio waves. They concluded that the pulses come from beams emitted from the magnetic poles of the brown dwarfs. This is similar to the beamed emission from pulsars, which are superdense neutron stars, and much more massive than brown dwarfs.

The characteristics of the beamed radio emission from the brown dwarfs suggest to the scientists that it is produced by a mechanism also seen at work in planets, including Jupiter and Earth. This process involves electrons interacting with the planet's magnetic field to produce radio waves that then are amplified, or strengthened, by natural masers that amplify radio waves the same way a laser amplifies light waves.

Two images of the location of the binary L dwarf 2MASSW J0746425+2000321 taken with the VLA at a frequency of 4.88 GHz. The position of the binary brown dwarf is marked by a white arrow in both cases. A field source is located 10 arcseconds from the brown dwarf and is present in both images to the upper left hand side of the target. The left hand image was taken during the interpulse phase, when the binary brown dwarf is too faint to be detected. The right hand image was taken during one of the pulses with the brown dwarf now outshining the nearby field source. Credit: Hallinan et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF
"The brown dwarfs we observed are between planets and pulsars in the strength of their radio emissions," said Aaron Golden, also of the National University of Ireland Galway. "While we don't think the mechanism that's producing the radio waves in brown dwarfs is exactly the same as that producing pulsar radio emissions, we think there may be enough similarities that further study of brown dwarfs may help unlock some of the mysteries about how pulsars work," he said.

While pulsars were discovered 40 years ago, scientists still do not understand the details of how their strong radio emissions are produced.

The brown dwarfs rotate at a much more leisurely pace than pulsars. While pulsars rotate -- and produce observed pulses -- typically several times a second to hundreds of times a second, the brown dwarfs observed with the VLA are showing pulses roughly once every two to three hours.

Hallinan and Golden worked with Stephen Bourke and Caoilfhionn Lane, also of the National University of Ireland Galway; Tony Antonova and Gerry Doyle of Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland; Robert Zavala and Fred Vrba of the U.S.Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona; Walter Brisken of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico; and Richard Boyle of the Vatican Observatory Research Group at Steward Observatory in Arizona.

The scientists presented their results to the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting at the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. This work was supported by Science Foundation Ireland under its Research Frontiers Programme, the Higher Education Authority's Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions, and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology.