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Swift preview
Mission scientists preview NASA's Swift gamma-ray burst detection satellite being readied for launch into Earth orbit. (39min 49sec file)
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Voting from space
International Space Station Expedition 10 commander Leroy Chiao talks about the election and voting from orbit with CNN's Paula Zahn. (10min 20sec file)
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Delta 4-Heavy preview
Preview what a Boeing Delta 4 rocket launch will be like with this animation package of a "Heavy" configuration vehicle. (1min 41sec file)
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Cassini science update
Radar imagery of Saturn's moon Titan and other new data from the Cassini spacecraft is presented during this JPL news conference on Thursday. (54min 48sec file)
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Post-flyby briefing
Scientists and mission officials discuss the initial pictures and data obtained during Cassini's flyby of Titan during this JPL news conference on Wednesday. (55min 18sec file)
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First pictures
The first pictures taken by Cassini during this close encounter with Titan are received at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the delight of the mission's imaging leader. (2min 21sec file)
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Images flood in
A Cassini mission scientist provides analysis as the raw images taken of Titan's surface flood into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (29min 29sec file)
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Flyby explained
Detailed animation illustrates Cassini's flyby of Titan and how the probe's instruments will study this moon of Saturn. Expert narration is provided by a project official. (3min 09sec file)
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Titan knowledge
Knowledge about the mysterious moon Titan prior to this first close encounter is described by the Cassini mission's imaging leader. (6min 46sec file)
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Moving clouds
Clouds near the south pole of Titan can be seen moving in this collection of pictures from Cassini as narrated by the mission's imaging leader. (2min 12sec file)
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Picture processing
How Cassini's raw pictures are processed by scientists is explained in this interview with the mission imaging leader. (5min 56sec file)
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Hubble spots rare triple eclipse on Jupiter
Posted: November 4, 2004

At first glance, Jupiter looks like it has a mild case of the measles. Five spots -- one colored white, one blue, and three black -- are scattered across the upper half of the planet. Closer inspection by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope reveals that these spots are actually a rare alignment of three of Jupiter's largest moons -- Io, Ganymede, and Callisto -- across the planet's face.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)
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In this image, the telltale signatures of this alignment are the shadows [the three black circles] cast by the moons. Io's shadow is located just above center and to the left; Ganymede's on the planet's left edge; and Callisto's near the right edge. Only two of the moons, however, are visible in this image. Io is the white circle in the center of the image, and Ganymede is the blue circle at upper right. Callisto is out of the image and to the right.

On Earth, we witness a solar eclipse when our Moon's shadow sweeps across our planet's face as it passes in front of our Sun. Jupiter, however, has four moons roughly the same size as Earth's Moon. The shadows of three of them occasionally sweep simultaneously across Jupiter. The image was taken March 28, 2004, with Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.

Seeing three shadows on Jupiter happens only about once or twice a decade. Why is this triple eclipse so unique?

This illustration plots the positions of Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto on March 28, 2004, when the Hubble Space Telescope made the observations of the triple eclipse on Jupiter. The graphic shows the shadows cast on Jupiter by Io, Ganymede, and Callisto. Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Feild and C. Klicka (STScI)
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Io, Ganymede, and Callisto orbit Jupiter at different rates. Their shadows likewise cross Jupiter's face at different rates. For example, the outermost moon Callisto orbits the slowest of the three satellites. Callisto's shadow moves across the planet once for every 20 shadow crossings of Io. Add the crossing rate of Ganymede's shadow and the possibility of a triple eclipse becomes even more rare. Viewing the triple shadows in 2004 was even more special, because two of the moons were crossing Jupiter's face at the same time as the three shadows.

Jupiter appears in pastel colors in this photo because the observation was taken in near-infrared light. Astronomers combined images taken in three near-infrared wavelengths to make this color image. The photo shows sunlight reflected from Jupiter's clouds. In the near infrared, methane gas in Jupiter's atmosphere limits the penetration of sunlight, which causes clouds to appear in different colors depending on their altitude.

Studying clouds in near-infrared light is very useful for scientists studying the layers of clouds that make up Jupiter's atmosphere. Yellow colors indicate high clouds; red colors lower clouds; and blue colors even lower clouds in Jupiter's atmosphere. The green color near the poles comes from a thin haze very high in the atmosphere. Ganymede's blue color comes from the absorption of water ice on its surface at longer wavelengths. Io's white color is from light reflected off bright sulfur compounds on the satellite's surface.

In this image, the moons and shadows that crossed Jupiter's face are labeled. The Hubble Space Telescope captured the rare triple eclipse on March 28, 2004. Credit: NASA, ESA, E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona) and Z. Levay (STScI)
In viewing this rare alignment, astronomers also tested a new imaging technique. To increase the sharpness of the near-infrared camera images, astronomers speeded up Hubble's tracking system so that Jupiter traveled through the telescope's field of view much faster than normal. This technique allowed scientists to take rapid-fire snapshots of the planet and its moons. They then combined the images into one single picture to show more details of the planet and its moons.

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).



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