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Launch of Deep Impact!
A Boeing Delta 2 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral carrying NASA's comet-smashing probe called Deep Impact. This extended clip follows the mission through second stage ignition and jettison of the rocket's nose cone. (5min 37sec file)
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Press Site view
A camera located at Cape Canaveral's Press Site 1 location offers this view of the Delta rocket's ascent. (1min 24sec file)
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Cocoa Beach
A Boeing Delta 2 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral carrying NASA's comet-smashing probe called Deep Impact. This extended clip follows the mission through second stage ignition and jettison of the rocket's nose cone. (5min 37sec file)
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Playalinda Beach
A Boeing Delta 2 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral carrying NASA's comet-smashing probe called Deep Impact. This extended clip follows the mission through second stage ignition and jettison of the rocket's nose cone. (5min 37sec file)
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Tower rollback
The mobile service tower is rolled back from the Boeing Delta 2 rocket, exposing the vehicle at launch pad 17B just before daybreak. (3min 21sec file)
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Rocket preps
Assembly of the Boeing Delta 2 rocket at launch pad 17B and mating of the Deep Impact spacecraft is presented in this video package with expert narration. (6min 12sec file)
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Spacecraft campaign
The pre-launch campaign of Deep Impact at Cape Canaveral is presented in this video package with expert narration by a spacecraft team member. (5min 32sec file)
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Spitzer sees dusty aftermath from massive smash-up
NASA NEWS RELEASE
Posted: January 16, 2005

Astronomers say a dusty disc swirling around the nearby star Vega is bigger than earlier thought. It was probably caused by collisions of objects, perhaps as big as the planet Pluto, up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,200 miles) in diameter.


This artist concept illustrates how a massive collision of objects, perhaps as large as the planet Pluto, smashed together to create the dust ring around the nearby star Vega. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC/Caltech)
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NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has seen the dusty aftermath of this "run-in." Astronomers think embryonic planets smashed together, shattered into pieces and repeatedly crashed into other fragments to create ever-finer debris. Vega's light heats the debris, and Spitzer's infrared telescope detects the radiation.

Vega, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Lyra, is the fifth brightest star in the night sky. It is 60 times brighter than our sun. Observations of Vega in 1984, with the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, provided the first evidence for dust particles around a typical star. Because of Vega's proximity and because its pole faces Earth, it provides a great opportunity for detailed study of the dust cloud around it.

"Vega's debris disc is another piece of evidence demonstrating the evolution of planetary systems is a pretty chaotic process," said lead author of the study, Dr. Kate Su of the University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz. The findings were presented at the 205th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego.

Like a drop of ink spreading out in a glass of water, the particles in Vega's dust cloud don't stay close to the star long. "The dust we are seeing in the Spitzer images is being blown out by intense light from the star," Su said. "We are witnessing the aftermath of a relatively recent collision, probably within the last million years," she explained.

Scientists say this disc event is short-lived. The majority of the detected material is only a few microns in size, 100 times smaller than a grain of Earth sand. These tiny dust grains leave the system and dissipate into interstellar space on a time scale less than 1,000 years. "But there are so many tiny grains," Su said. "They add up to a total mass equal to one third of the weight of our moon," she said.


Spitzer recently captured these images of the star Vega, located 25 light years away in the constellation Lyra. Spitzer was able to detect the heat radiation from the cloud of dust around the star and found that the debris disk is much larger than previously thought. This side-by-side comparison, taken by Spitzer's multiband imaging photometer, shows the warm infrared glows from dust particles orbiting the star at wavelengths of 24 microns (on the left in blue) and 70 microns (on the right in red). Both images show a very large, circular and smooth debris disk. The disk radius extends to at least 815 astronomical units. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/K. Su (University of Arizona)
Download a larger image version here

 
The mass of these short-lived grains implies a high dust-production rate. The Vega disc would have to have an improbably massive reservoir of planet-building material and collisions to maintain this amount of dust production throughout the star's life (350 million years, 13 times younger than our sun). "We think a transient disc phenomenon is more likely," Su said.

Su and her colleagues were struck by other characteristics of Vega's debris disc, including its physical size. It has a radius of at least 815 astronomical units, roughly 20 times larger than our solar system. One astronomical unit is the distance from Earth to the sun, which is 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). A study of the disc's surface brightness indicates the presence of an inner hole at a radius of 86 astronomical units (twice the distance between Pluto and the sun). Large embryonic planets at the edge of this inner hole may have collided to make the rest of the debris around Vega.

"Spitzer has obtained the first high spatial-resolution infrared images of Vega's disc," said Dr. Michael Werner, co-author and project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. "Its sensitive infrared detectors have allowed us to see that Vega is surrounded by an enormous disc of debris," he said.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. JPL is a division of Caltech. The multi-band imaging photometer for Spitzer, which made the new disc observations, was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation, Boulder, Colo.; the University of Arizona; and Boeing North American, Canoga Park, Calif.

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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