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Phoebe science briefing
Scientists report scientific results from the Cassini spacecraft's close-up examination of Saturn's moon Phoebe. (31min 53sec file)
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Space station briefing
International Space Station officials preview the upcoming Expedition 9 spacewalk to replace a faulty power control box that supports one of the U.S. control moment gyros. (66min 08sec file)
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Stardust briefing
Scientist present new findings from the Stardust spacecraft's encounter with Comet Wild 2 in this news conference from NASA Headquarters on June 17. (26min 12sec file)
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New pictures explained
New pictures of Comet Wild 2 from NASA's Stardust spacecraft are shown here with narration by lead mission scientist Donald Brownlee. (3min 06sec file)
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Stardust's comet flyby
Animation depicting Stardust's flyby of Comet Wild 2 and the powerful jets of dust streaming from the comet's surface is presented with narration by scientist Benton Clark. (1min 59sec file)
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Moon-Mars commission
After releasing its report, the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond holds a news conference in Washington. (60min 18sec file)
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NASA workers respond
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and commission chairman Pete Aldridge address the NASA workforce and answer questions after the Moon, Mars and Beyond report is released. (75min 24sec file)
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Tuesday's Mars briefing
Mars rover Spirit's arrival at the Columbia Hills, trouble with one of its wheels and Opportunity's descent into Endurance Crater and all of the latest pictures are presented at this briefing from June 15. (30min 27sec file)
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Ride with Opportunity
Cameras on Opportunity provides this "ride-along" view of the rover's risky drive into Endurance Crater. Expert narration by science team member Scott McLennan. (30sec file)
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Opportunity panorama
Another stunning color panorama from the Mars rover Opportunity looking into Endurance Crater and the surrounding plains is presented with expert narration by science team member Scott McLennan. (1min 30sec file)
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Spirit panorama
Spirit has generated this panorama from the base of the Columbia Hills. Expert narration is provided by science team member Larry Soderblom. (1min 15sec file)
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New Spirit pictures
New pictures from Mars rover Spirit showing the "Pot of Gold" rock area and other features are revealed with expert narration by science team member Larry Soderblom. (4min 47sec file)
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Camera to shoot first direct images of exoplanets
UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA NEWS RELEASE
Posted: June 26, 2004

A University of Arizona astronomer and his collaborators are using a novel camera to hunt for extrasolar planets.

Their camera has already made stunning images of Saturn's moon, Titan, and discovered an object just 27 times the mass of Jupiter. They hope the camera will be the first to directly photograph faint gas-giants similar to Jupiter in solar systems beyond our own.

The project is being funded over the next five years by a $545,000 National Science Foundation award. NSF awarded the highly competitive Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant to Associate Professor Laird M. Close. Th CAREER program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the NSF's most prestigious awards for new faculty members. The CAREER program recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

Close and his graduate students, Beth Biller and Eric Nielsen, will use Close's custom SDI (Simultaneous Differential Imager) cameras on two big telescopes in Arizona and Chile to hunt for planets orbiting other stars.

Astronomers have indirectly detected more than 100 planets circling stars in other solar systems, but none have yet been directly imaged. Close plans to solve the problem of detecting faint planets near their billion-times-brighter stars by using a unique, high-contrast, SDI camera. The camera uses adaptive optics, which remove the blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere and produce extremely sharp images.

The SDI camera splits light from a single object into four identical images, then passes the resulting beams through four slightly different methane-sensitive filters. When the filtered light beams hit the detector array, astronomers can subtract the images so the bright star disappears, revealing the massive, methane-rich planet.

Professor Close and his collaborators will use SDI to examine 100 young northern- and southern-hemisphere stars that are near Earth. They will hunt for planets as small as 3 Jupiter masses (three times the mass of Jupiter) that are as close as 5 AU from their stars. This is about the distance between Jupiter and the sun. One "AU," or astronomical unit, is the distance between Earth and the sun.

The northern SDI camera will be used on the 6.5-meter, UA/Smithsonian, MMT telescope on Mount Hopkins, Ariz, in collaboration with Steward Observatory astronomer Donald McCarthy. The southern SDI camera has been installed at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) 8.2-meter Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. Astronomers Rainer Lenzen and Wolfgang Brandner of the Max-Planck-Institut fUr Astronomie (MPIA), Heidelberg, Germany, and Markus Hartung of ESO collaborate on this project.

"Our imaging technique should be about 100 times more sensitive than current imaging technologies," Close said. "This will allow us to directly detect sub-stellar companions to nearby stars. It also will allow us to look for planets in regions where we have not been able to search before but that are likely to be rich with massive planets," he added. "If we find such planets, they can help tell us if those stars have Earth-like planets."

In collaboration with Mark McCaughrean of the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, Close and his German colleagues discovered a 27 Jupiter mass object named Epsilon Indi Bb the first night they used the camera. They reported the finding the Journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Epsilon Indi Bb is a methane-rich object a mere 12 light years from the sun and just 2.6 AU away from a 43 Jupiter-mass object. Epsilon Indi Ba, that McCaughrean and others reported in another paper in 2003.

"Although a bit too massive to be a true planet, Epsilon Indi Bb is just slightly hotter than a convection oven," Close said. "It is the coolest, closest binary 'brown dwarf' ever imaged."

Brown dwarfs are too small to shine like a star but too big to be called planets.

"This discovery will play an important role in understanding the nature and physics of brown dwarfs," Close said.

Last February, during commissioning of the SDI camera in Chile, Hartung, Close and their European colleagues produced the sharpest images ever taken of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

One of the super-sharp images shows red surface features and dark surface areas on the moon, which is ringed with a haze of Titan's methane-rich atmosphere, shown as blue.

The image has a 360 kilometer resolution at the distance of Saturn, then at about 8.5 AU from Earth. That is, the SDI camera resolves a 200-mile distance on Titan from about 800 million miles away.

"The 'red' features may be the icy surface of Titan," Close said. "The dark areas may be liquid methane and ethane lakes."

New Station
Crew Patch


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The Expedition 38 embroidered crew patch for the International Space Station is now available in our store!
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Gemini 7
Gemini 7: The NASA Mission Reports covers this 14-day mission by Borman and Lovell as they demonstrated some of the more essential facts of space flight. Includes CD-ROM.
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Apollo patches
The Apollo Patch Collection: Includes all 12 Apollo mission patches plus the Apollo Program Patch. Save over 20% off the Individual price.
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Mars Rover mission patch
A mission patch featuring NASA's Mars Exploration Rover is available from our online.
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Apollo 9 DVD
On the road to the moon, the mission of Apollo 9 stands as an important gateway in experience and procedures. This 2-DVD collection presents the crucial mission on the voyage to the moon.
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Soviet Space
For the first time ever available in the West. Rocket & Space Corporation Energia: a complete pictorial history of the Soviet/Russian Space Program from 1946 to the present day all in full color. Available from our store.
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Viking patch
This embroidered mission patch celebrates NASA's Viking Project which reached the Red Planet in 1976.
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Apollo 7 DVD
For 11 days the crew of Apollo 7 fought colds while they put the Apollo spacecraft through a workout, establishing confidence in the machine what would lead directly to the bold decision to send Apollo 8 to the moon just 2 months later.
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Gemini 12
Gemini 12: The NASA Mission Reports covers the voyage of James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin that capped the Gemini program's efforts to prove the technologies and techniques that would be needed for the Apollo Moon landings. Includes CD-ROM.
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Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.
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Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
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Expedition 21
The official embroidered patch for the International Space Station Expedition 21 crew is now available from our stores.
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Hubble Patch
The official embroidered patch for mission STS-125, the space shuttle's last planned service call to the Hubble Space Telescope, is available for purchase.
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