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Shuttles prepped for Frances
Workers close the payload bay doors, retract the landing gear and secure NASA's space shuttles in hangars at Kennedy Space Center to ride out Hurricane Frances. (3min 48sec file)
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Station pieces bagged
Modules and equipment awaiting launch to the International Space Station are covered with bags inside the processing facility at Kennedy Space Center as added protection from Hurricane Frances. (51sec file)
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Atlas blasts off
Lockheed Martin's last Atlas 2AS rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft. (3min 59sec file)
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Salute to pad 36A
The Atlas launch team in the Complex 36 Blockhouse celebrate the history of pad 36A in a post-launch toast. The Atlas 2AS rocket flight was the last to launch from the pad, which entered service in 1962. (2min 09sec file)
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Mission success
The classified NRO payload is deployed from the Centaur upper stage to successfully complete the launch. (1min 56sec file)
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Hurricane Frances
An external camera aboard the International Space Station captured this dramatic view of Hurricane Frances churning in the Atlantic Ocean. (4min 46sec file)
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Planet discovery
A team of planet-hunters announce their discovery of a new class of planets beyond our solar system at this NASA news conference on Tuesday, August 31. (52min 49sec file)
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Atlas launch preview
Preview the launch of Lockheed Martin's Atlas 2AS rocket carrying a classified National Reconnaissance Office spacecraft with this narrated animation package. (2min 22sec file)
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Space shuttle update
NASA's William Readdy, Space Operations associate administrator and Bill Parsons, space shuttle program manager, provide a status report on returning the shuttles to flight in this teleconference with reporters held on the one-year anniversary since the CAIB report was issued. (37min 35sec file)
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Brightest supernova in a decade captured by Hubble
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY NEWS RELEASE
Posted: September 4, 2004

A University of California, Berkeley, astronomer has turned the NASA Hubble Space Telescope on the brightest and nearest supernova of the past decade, capturing a massive stellar explosion blazing with the light of 200 million suns.


The explosion of a massive star blazes with the light of 200 million Suns in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. The arrow at top right points to the stellar blast, called a supernova. Credit: NASA, ESA, A.V. Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley), P. Challis (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), et al.
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The supernova, called SN 2004dj, is so bright in the Hubble image that it easily could be mistaken for a foreground star in our Milky Way Galaxy. Yet it lies 11 million light-years from Earth in the outskirts of a galaxy called NGC 2403, nestled in a cluster of mostly massive bright blue stars only 14 million years old.

"This has to be a massive star to explode at such a young age," said Alex Filippenko, professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, who estimates the star's mass at 15 times that of our sun. Massive stars live much shorter lives than the sun; they have more fuel to burn through nuclear fusion, but they use it up at a disproportionately faster rate. The sun, for example, is only halfway through its expected lifetime of about 10 billion years.

"There are probably hundreds of other stars in the cluster ready to blow up, though not in our lifetime," said Filippenko.

Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki discovered the supernova on July 31, 2004, with a small telescope. Additional observations soon showed that it is a "Type II supernova," resulting from the explosion of a massive, hydrogen-rich star at the end of its life. Filippenko then used his time on the telescope to take an image of the supernova on Aug. 17, plus spectra using the Advanced Camera for Surveys. Filippenko is principle investigator for a big program to use the Hubble telescope to study nearby Type Ia supernovas to better understand their properties and thus reduce uncertainty in measurements of the acceleration of the universe.

A team of astronomers led by Jesus Maiz of the Space Telescope Science Institute discovered that the supernova was part of a compact cluster of stars known as Sandage 96, whose total mass is about 24,000 times the mass of the sun. The image shows many such clusters the blue regions as well as looser associations of massive stars. The large number of massive stars in NGC 2403 leads to a high supernova rate. Two other supernovae have been seen in this galaxy during the past half-century.


The image at left represents a small region of NGC 2403, a galaxy located 11 million light-years from Earth. The photo was taken two months before a massive star exploded. The image pinpoints the location of the stellar blast, known as supernova 2004dj, within a cluster of massive, generally blue (but some red) stars called Sandage 96. This image was taken May 8, 2004, with the WIYN 0.9-meter mosaic camera at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. The image at right from Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys pinpoints the supernova blast. The photo was taken on Aug. 17. The light from this outburst outshines every star in the massive cluster. Credit for ground-based image: WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF, T. Rector (University of Alaska, Anchorage), Z. Levay and L. Frattare (STScI) Credit for Hubble image: NASA, ESA, A.V. Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley), P. Challis (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), et al.
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The cataclysm probably occurred when the evolved star's central core, consisting of iron, suddenly collapsed to form an extremely dense object called a neutron star. The surrounding layers of gas bounced off the neutron star and also gained energy from the flood of ghostly "neutrinos" (tiny, almost non-interacting particles) that may have been released, thereby violently expelling these layers.

This explosion is ejecting heavy chemical elements, generated by nuclear reactions inside the star, into the cosmos. Like other Type II supernovas, this exploding star is providing the raw material for future generations of stars and planets. Elements on Earth such as oxygen, calcium, iron and gold came long ago from exploding stars such as this one.

Astronomers will continue to study SN 2004dj over the next few years, as it slowly fades from view, in order to gain a better understanding of how certain types of stars explode and what kinds of chemical elements they eject into space.

This color-composite photograph was obtained by combining images through several filters taken with the Wide Field Camera of the Advanced Camera for Surveys. The colors in the image highlight important features in the galaxy. Hot, young stars are blue. Older stars and dense dust lanes near the heart of the galaxy are red. The hydrogen-rich, star-forming regions are pink. The dense concentration of older stars in the galaxy's central bulge is yellow.

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA), for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

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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