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Washington, DC- NASA today released the first spectacular images from the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) instrument on board the Spitzer Space Telescope. The pictures, taken at infrared wavelengths of light, revealed remarkable details in objects ranging from nearby star formation regions to distant spiral galaxies. The images are but a taste of what will come from IRAC, which was developed for NASA by a team led by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), with Giovanni Fazio as the Principal Investigator.
"We are absolutely thrilled by the performance of IRAC, which has met or exceeded all expectations," says Fazio. "Every time we take a picture, we see something spectacular!"
The three IRAC objects featured in today's press conference at NASA Headquarters are emission nebula IC 1396, spiral galaxy Messier 81 (M81), and Herbig-Haro 46 (HH 46).
"Together, these three images show how IRAC will serve as a 'time machine,' giving us new information about the past, present, and future of our cosmos. Combined with its ability to peer into the distant past of the universe by studying highly redshifted galaxies, IRAC truly is lifting the cosmic veil and revealing hidden wonders," says Fazio.
The region of IC 1396 imaged by IRAC is a globule of gas and dust about 12 light-years in size. In visible light, it appears as a dark silhouette against the background of glowing nebular gas. Yet IRAC revealed it to be shining brightly at infrared wavelengths.
This globule is a remnant of a much larger molecular cloud complex in Cepheus that already has formed populous star clusters. This leftover blob of gas and dust is being sculpted by the intense radiation from nearby massive, hot, young stars.
"Radiation and hot winds are carving away the nebula like rust sandblasted from an old car. Eventually, it will vanish completely. We're lucky to have caught it in the act, to get a chance to see these stunning ethereal wisps before they disappear," says Fazio.
"By studying M81, we can get an outsider's view of our home. This is what aliens would see if they looked back at the Milky Way," says Fazio.
In visible light, M81 displays an unremarkable disk and central bulge of stars. Dust lanes wind throughout the disk, hiding details of the galaxy's structure and composition. IRAC sweeps away that obscuration to clearly separate M81's stars (dominant in the near-infrared) from its hot dust (most visible at mid-infrared wavelengths). In doing so, IRAC uncovered areas where star formation is taking place, visible in the image as infrared-bright clumpy knots within the well-defined spiral arms. The huge amounts of dust revealed by IRAC, and the associated hydrogen gas, will provide raw materials for future star formation.
The photo of M81 is a four-color composite of infrared light at wavelengths of 3.6 microns (blue), 4.5 microns (green), 5.8 microns (yellow), and 8.0 microns (red).
The sharp infrared eyes of IRAC exposed the source of these jets - a young protostar embedded in an obscuring cloud of matter.
"This youngster is still forming, and like any youngster, it's acting up a bit," says Fazio.
Most young stars produce powerful jets during their birth, in a process yet to be fully understood by scientists. Those jets may help the star to collect infalling material by removing excess angular momentum. Without them, like an ice skater who pulls in his arms while spinning in place, the star soon would whirl so fast that centrifugal forces would stop its growth.
While powerful jets are believed to assist forming stars, the jet of HH 46 is particularly strong, speeding outward across more than 9 light-years of space. (For comparison, the closest star to the Sun is only 4 light-years away.)
The Infrared Array Camera is one of three science instruments on board the Spitzer Space Telescope. IRAC was developed by SAO and built at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. The Spitzer Space Telescope mission is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., a division of the California Institute of Technology.The Spitzer Space Telescope, launched August 25 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., uses state-of-the-art infrared detectors to pierce the dusty darkness enshrouding such celestial objects as galaxies, stars, and planet-forming discs around stars. It is the fourth of NASA's Great Observatories, which include the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
Related Web sites
Spitzer Space Telescope
University of Arizona astronomers are delighted with first images from the Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly called the Space Infrared Telescope Facility.
UA astronomy Professor George Rieke presented some of the images at a news conference at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. today. Rieke is principal investigator for the Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS), one of three science instruments aboard the Spitzer Space Telescope.
"We know now that this telescope will do exciting things," Rieke said. "All of these observations were to help us figure out if everything is working well enough to do the observations we plan to do. It is. We already could write two dozen papers from little scraps of information we got during checkout. This is so new that there's something new in almost everything we see."
UA-built MIPS detectors took the first-ever image of dust in the inner part of the massive disc of dusty debris left over from planet formation around Fomalhaut, a star 25 light years away. Fomalhaut is the 18th brightest star in the sky and 100 times more luminous than our sun. Its outer ring of icy debris is two or three times the size of our solar system. Although other telescopes have observed the outer edges of the Fomalhaut's disc, none have been able to photograph the inner region.
"What we think is happening is that there probably is one massive planet, or more, orbiting this star within a ring of icy, Kuiper Belt-like objects," Rieke said. Kuiper Belt objects are small, icy bodies left over from solar system formation. They form a vast shell around the outer edge of the solar system. "The planet, or planets, may be deflecting comets to the inner part of the solar system." Colliding debris create a dense ball of dust.
MIPS images taken in early November show the dust that heats up as it spirals toward Fomalhaut. Fomalhaut's inner solar system dust ball would fill our solar system out to the planet Uranus.
Another new image shows the dusty, star-studded arms of galaxy M81, a large spiral galaxy 12 million light years away.
"This is the first time we've seen such a well-resolved image of a classic grand design spiral galaxy at far-infrared wavelengths," said MIPS instrument team scientist Karl Gordon of UA's Steward Observatory. "There is an incredible amount of structure that we just haven=B9t been able to see before. For the first time, we will be able to study different star-forming regions within many different galaxies at infrared wavelengths. The quality of the data so soon after launch is just amazing."
UA MIPS team member John Stansberry and NASA Ames scientist Dale Cruikshank took an image of heat given off by dust around Comet P-29 (Schwassmann/Wachmann 1), the 29th comet discovered in our solar system.
Most comets become active only when they come in as close to the sun as Earth. That's where water frozen in comets starts to "sublimate," or turn from ice to gas.
Comet P-29 is beyond Jupiter, and is too cold for water ice to sublimate. What drives this comet's activity is probably carbon dioxide ice, dry ice. Carbon dioxide gas carries dust away from the comet, forming a cloud, or coma, many times larger than Jupiter.
"We got a really good image of this comet. Instrument performance is right on," Stansberry said.
Ball Aerospace, Boulder, Co., built the MIPS instrument.
The Spitzer Space Telescope was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. on August 24 and is the fourth of NASA's Great Observatories. The telescope is more sensitive to infrared radiation, or heat, than any ever built. It complements the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory that operate, respectively, at visible, gamma ray and X-ray wavelengths.
UA's Steward Observatory plays a major role in the Spitzer Space Telescope. Not only did UA scientists provide one of the telescope's three science instruments, Steward Observatory astronomers lead two of its six major Legacy Science projects.
UA astronomer Robert Kennicutt Jr. leads the "SINGS" project. He and his team will use the Spitzer telescope to study star formation in nearby galaxies. Astronomers want to know why some nearby galaxies create hundreds more stars than the Milky Way creates, while other galaxies hardly form any stars.
UA astronomer Michael Meyer leads another Legacy Science project. He and his team are studying dust disks evolving around Milky Way stars to learn if solar systems like ours are rare or commonplace.
NASA announced the telescope's new name at today's news conference. It honors Lyman Spitzer, Jr., one of the 20th century=B9s most distinguished astronomers. Spitzer was the first to propose placing large telescopes in space. His efforts led to two successful missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope.The Spitzer Space Telescope is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, a division of the California Institute of Technology. Science operations are handled at Caltech.
ITHACA, N.Y. - An instrument aboard NASA's recently launched orbiting infrared observatory has found evidence of organic molecules in an enormously powerful galaxy some 3.25 billion light years from the Earth. So powerful is the source, that it is equal to 10 trillion times the luminosity of the sun, making it one of the brightest galaxies ever detected.
The instrument on the newly named Spitzer Space Telescope (previously called the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, or SIRTF) is the infrared spectrograph, or IRS. James Houck, professor of astronomy at Cornell University, heads the scientific team on the $39 million IRS contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., a division of the California Institute of Technology, manager of the mission for NASA.
Houck participated in a press conference at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., today (Dec. 18) at which the first observations and data from the half-billion-dollar observatory, launched Aug. 25, were released. Among the most spectacular details released were dazzling images taken with the space telescope's infrared-array camera and with its multiband-imaging photometer. The images include a glowing stellar nursery; a swirling, dusty galaxy; a disc of planet-forming debris; and organic material in the distant universe.
The IRS, one of three instruments carried by the space telescope, is the most sensitive infrared spectrograph ever to go into space. In less than 15 minutes it produced a spectrum of the distant galaxy IRAS 00183, first observed by the infrared astronomical satellite (IRAS) in 1983. The spectrum "gives evidence for organic chemistry in a distant galaxy shortly after the formation of the Earth," says Houck. (While the Spitzer observatory's cameras take infrared snapshots of distant galaxies and dust clouds, and objects too cool to emit visible light, the IRS determines their precise infrared colors. Astronomers are then able to read the peaks and valleys in the spectrum, called emission and absorption lines, to determine the chemical mix of the object being observed.)
In an optical image, the IRAS galaxy appears as no more than a faint smudge. But the IRS spectrum - the first detailed look at the galaxy - shows a broad silicate feature. The dominant absorber of visible energy is tiny silicate dust particles. The silicate dust is so opaque that only a small percentage of the visible light escapes the galaxy, says Houck.
"We are seeing the merger of two galaxies. This produces one of two effects: Either what we are seeing is a brief flash of incredibly strong star formation, or one or both of the galaxies contained a black hole before colliding. The massive black holes are releasing the energy by swallowing stars and gas," says Houck. In both cases, he says, the collision would compress gas that would trigger the star formation or the release of energy from the black hole, a process called "feeding the monster."
Both scenarios have problems, Houck concedes. "One is, how do you get enough gas close enough to a black hole to make all this happen? And how do you get stars to form so quickly all at the same time?"
Houck's IRS team also released a spectrum of HH46IR, a "dusty, dirty cloud" in our galaxy, the Milky Way, that visible light is unable to penetrate. The spectrum shows the cloud to be a region of star formation containing organic materials, including methyl alcohol, carbon dioxide ice and carbon monoxide gas and ice.
Houck also notes that the IRS is "working well" and is likely to be "a workhorse for years to come." During November, he relates, the instrument was subject to a massive proton "storm" in space, with 1.6 billion atomic particles (mostly protons) bombarding a square centimeter of the instrument in just two days. "It was a staggering event," he says.
Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability.Spitzer Space Telescope/JPL
The Space Infrared Telescope Facility, which NASA had referred to as SIRTF, has now been named the Spitzer Space Telescope after the late astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer, who served on the Princeton faculty for nearly 50 years and died in 1997.
"Lyman Spitzer was the father of space telescopes," said Neta Bahcall, a Princeton professor of astrophysics who worked closely with Spitzer for many years. Spitzer proposed the idea of launching a telescope into space in 1946, long before the technical capacity existed, and worked for decades to convince political and scientific doubters of its worth.
"It is very appropriate that this massive undertaking, which has been so successful and so revolutionary for our understanding of the universe, is commemorated with the name of Lyman Spitzer," said Scott Tremaine, chair of astrophysical sciences at Princeton.
The Spitzer Space Telescope is the fourth observatory to be launched under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Great Observatories program. The first of the series was the Hubble telescope, which was launched in 1990 and observes the visible and ultraviolet portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The others are the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (which re-entered the Earth's atmosphere on June 4, 2000) and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which enabled scientists to observe different aspects of the solar system, the galaxy and universe.
The infrared portion of the spectrum is particularly important for studying the birth of stars and galaxies, which are shrouded in dust clouds that block most visible light but not the infrared. It also will allow scientists to observe relatively cool objects, such as very small stars only slightly bigger than planets, as well as objects at the farthest reaches of time and space.
Spitzer was one of the world's leading scientists in studying the interstellar medium -- the gas and dust between stars -- and understanding how stars and galaxies formed from this material. The infrared telescope, which was launched in August after more than 20 years of planning, is expected to dramatically advance this line of research. Spitzer also was known as an outstanding teacher and as founder of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which seeks to harness nuclear fusion -- the source of energy within stars -- as an economical supply of energy on Earth.
The idea of putting telescopes in space and avoiding the blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere had captured Spitzer's imagination for five decades. In a 1946 paper prepared for RAND Corp., a defense consulting company, Spitzer wrote, "While a more exhaustive analysis would alter some of the details of the present study, it would probably not change the chief conclusion -- that such a scientific tool, if practically feasible, could revolutionize astronomical techniques and open up completely new vistas of astronomical research."
His idea came closer to reality with the success of the space program 20 years later, but still was not universally accepted. Spitzer and John Bahcall of the Institute for Advanced Study spent years crisscrossing the country and meeting with officials in Washington, D.C., to drum up support.
Bahcall said Spitzer's determination to see the space telescope project through was legendary in the astronomical community. In the early 1970s, Congress dropped funding for a space telescope from NASA's budget and Spitzer and Bahcall scheduled countless meetings with key representatives to save the project. Arriving for one appointment, they could not enter the Capitol building, which was roped off and surrounded by guards for the Nixon impeachment hearings.
"Lyman said, "You and I have suits and briefcases -- let's keep on talking and walking and try to ignore the policemen with guns,=" recalled Bahcall. As they passed the crowds and approached the ropes, Bahcall looked for guidance from Spitzer, who did nothing but nod as though engrossed in conversation. "I remember thinking, "I don't know if they are going to shoot us or not," said Bahcall. "Then a policeman rushed up -- and pulled the ropes aside for us to go through."
"So you can see he was a person who had amazing resourcefulness in any endeavor he undertook," said Bahcall.
After Hubble was launched, Spitzer participated in brainstorming ways to repair a flaw in the telescope's mirror, said Neta Bahcall. On the day of the repair mission, the Princeton astrophysics department arranged for the NASA television channel to be shown in Peyton Hall. "He and Doreen, his wife, would come and sit for the whole day and watch with the thrill of a little kid in a toy store," Neta Bahcall said.
Spitzer earned his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1938 and taught at Yale University before performing wartime service at Columbia University. He joined the Princeton faculty in 1947 as chair of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences. He founded the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in 1951 and served as its director until 1967. He received the 1979 National Medal of Science in addition to numerous other major awards.
The first images from the Spitzer Space Telescope were released Dec. 18. The infrared space telescope project is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.Further information about the telescope and its mission is available at:
NASA's Space Infrared Telescope Facility has switched on two of its onboard instruments and captured some preliminary star-studded images. The space observatory was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on August 25.
The images were taken as part of an operational test of the infrared array camera. It will take about a month to fully focus and fine-tune the telescope and cool it to optimal operating temperature, so these early images will not be as sharp or polished as future pictures."We're extremely pleased, because these first images have exceeded our expectations," said Dr. Michael Werner, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. "We can't wait to see the images and spectra we'll get once the telescope is cooled down and instruments are working at full capacity."
The most striking images are available on the Internet at:
The telescope's dust cover was ejected on Aug. 29, and its aperture door opened on Aug. 30. The spacecraft is operating in normal mode, and all systems are operating nominally. The team is very pleased with the rapid progress of the observatory and all of its onboard systems, said Project Manager David Gallagher of JPL.
In addition to the infrared array camera, the multi-band imaging photometer instrument was also switched on for the first time in a successful engineering test. The spacecraft's pointing calibration and reference sensor detected light from a star cluster. The third instrument, the infrared spectrograph, will be turned on later this month.These operations are part of the mission's two-month in- orbit checkout, which will be followed by a one-month science verification phase. After that, the science mission will begin a quest to study galaxies, stars and other celestial objects, and to look for possible planetary construction zones in dusty discs around other stars.
The panel, chaired by Prof. John Bahcall, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J. chartered by NASA earlier this year, submitted their report to the agency this week.
NASA's current plans are to extend the life of the HST to 2010 with one Space Shuttle servicing mission (SM 4) in 2005 or 2006. The plan is tentative pending the agency's return to flight process and the availability of Shuttle missions. NASA plans to eventually remove the HST from orbit and safely bring it down into the Pacific Ocean.
"NASA is deeply appreciative to Prof. Bahcall and the panel for getting this thoughtful report to us ahead of schedule," said Dr. Ed Weiler, NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Science. "We have a big job to do to study the panel's findings and consider our options, and we will respond as soon as we have time to evaluate their report," Weiler said.
The three options presented by the HST-JWST Transition Plan Review Panel, listed in order of priority, are:
"1. Two additional Shuttle servicing missions, SM4 in about 2005 and SM5 in about 2010, in order to maximize the scientific productivity of the Hubble Space Telescope. The extended HST science program resulting from SM5 would only occur if the HST science was successful in a peer-reviewed competition with other new space astrophysics proposals."
"2. One Shuttle servicing mission, SM4, before the end of 2006, which would include replacement of HST gyros and installing improved instruments. In this scenario, the HST could be de-orbited, after science operations are no longer possible, by a propulsion device installed on the HST during SM4 or by an autonomous robotic system."
"3. If no Shuttle servicing missions are available, a robotic mission to install a propulsion module to bring the HST down in a controlled descent when science is no longer possible."
In addition, the panel described various ways to ensure maximum science return from the HST if none, one or two Shuttle servicing missions are available.
"A lot of astronomers and NASA officials were astonished, when we said our report was ready just one week after our public meeting. This was possible because we reached unanimous agreement on our conclusions very quickly; remarkable when you consider there were six independent- minded scientists on the panel. Our secret is we did our homework very thoroughly. Many people helped to educate us," Bahcall said.The HST-JWST Transition Panel report is available on the Internet at:
The survey will be done using the newly refurbished 48-inch Oschin Telescope, originally used to produce major photographic sky atlases starting in 1950s. At its new technological heart is a very special, fully digital camera. The camera contains 112 digital imaging detectors, known as charge-coupled devices (CCDs). The largest astronomical camera until now has had 30 CCDs. CCDs are often used for digital imaging ranging from common snapshot cameras to sophisticated scientific instruments. Designed and built by scientists at Yale and Indiana Universities, the QUEST (Quasar Equatorial Survey Team) camera was recently installed on the Oschin Telescope. "We are excited by the new data we are starting to obtain from the Palomar Observatory with the new QUEST camera," says Charles Baltay, Higgins Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Yale University. Baltay's dream of building a large electronic camera that could capture the entire field of view of a wide-field telescope is now a reality. The survey will generate astronomical data at an unprecedented rate, about one terabyte per month; a terabyte is a million megabytes, an amount of information approximately equivalent to that contained in two million books. In two years, the survey will generate an amount of information about equal to that in the entire Library of Congress.
A major new feature of the Palomar-QUEST survey will be many repeated observations of the same portions of the sky, enabling researchers to find not only objects that move (like asteroids or comets), but also objects that vary in brightness, such as the supernova explosions, variable stars, quasars, or cosmic gamma-ray bursts--and to do this at an unprecedented scale."Previous sky surveys provided essentially digital snapshots of the sky", s ays S. George Djorgovski, professor of astronomy at Caltech. "Now we are starting to make digital movies of the universe." Djorgovski and his team, in collaboration with the Yale group, are also planning to use the survey to discover large numbers of very distant quasars--highly luminous objects bel ieved to be powered by massive black holes in the centers of young galaxies --and to use them to probe the early stages of the universe.
From: David Gallagher
It is with great regret I am writing to let all of you know that we will be standing down from our current launch opportunity. It was decided today by NASA HQ that the risk related to delamination in the Graphite Epoxy Motors is significant enough to cause the SIRTF launch to be delayed. I am sure you are all as profoundly disappointed as I am and I want all of you to know that this is no reflection on the quality of the Observatory or the readiness of the entire Operations team. The decision is that we will launch in August following MER-B. As more information becomes available, I will update you. I thank all of you for your continued hard work.
The launch of the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) is scheduled on an uncrewed rocket, a Delta, from Cape Canaveral on August 26, 2003. Checkout of the instruments is to take about four months, and the new name for SIRTF is to be announced with the release of the first observations after that time.
NASA RELEASE: 02-171, September 10, 2002
NASA has selected TRW, Redondo Beach, Calif., to build a next-generation successor to the Hubble Space Telescope in honor of the man who led NASA in the early days of the fledgling aerospace agency.
The space-based observatory will be known as the James Webb Space Telescope, named after James E. Webb, NASA's second administrator. While Webb is best known for leading Apollo and a series of lunar exploration programs that landed the first humans on the Moon, he also initiated a vigorous space science program, responsible for more than 75 launches during his tenure, including America's first interplanetary explorers.
"It is fitting that Hubble's successor be named in honor of James Webb. Thanks to his efforts, we got our first glimpses at the dramatic landscapes of outer space," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "He took our nation on its first voyages of exploration, turning our imagination into reality. Indeed, he laid the foundations at NASA for one of the most successful periods of astronomical discovery. As a result, we're rewriting the textbooks today with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and, in 2010, the James Webb Telescope."
The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for launch in 2010 aboard an expendable launch vehicle. It will take about three months for the spacecraft to reach its destination, an orbit 940,000 miles or 1.5 million kilometers in space, called the second Lagrange Point or L2, where the spacecraft is balanced between the gravity of the Sun and the Earth.
Unlike Hubble, space shuttle astronauts will not service the James Webb Space Telescope because it will be too far away.
The most important advantage of this L2 orbit is that a single-sided sun shield on only one side of the observatory can protect Webb from the light and heat of both the Sun and Earth. As a result, the observatory can be cooled to very low temperatures without the use of complicated refrigeration equipment. These low temperatures are required to prevent the Webb's own heat radiation from exceeding the brightness of the distant cool astronomical objects.
Before and during launch, the mirror will be folded up. Once the telescope is placed in its orbit, ground controllers will send a message telling the telescope to unfold its high-tech mirror petals.
To see into the depths of space, the James Webb Space Telescope is currently planned to carry instruments that are sensitive to the infrared wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. The new telescope will carry a near-infrared camera, a multi-object spectrometer and a mid-infrared camera/spectrometer.
The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to look deeper into the universe than Hubble because of the increased light- collecting power of its larger mirror and the extraordinary sensitivity of its instruments to infrared light. Webb's primary mirror will be at least 20 feet in diameter, providing much more light gathering capability than Hubble's eight-foot primary mirror.
The telescope's infrared capabilities are required to help astronomers understand how galaxies first emerged out of the darkness that followed the rapid expansion and cooling of the universe just a few hundred million years after the big bang. The light from the youngest galaxies is seen in the infrared due to the universe's expansion.
Looking closer to home, the James Webb Space Telescope will probe the formation of planets in disks around young stars, and study supermassive black holes in other galaxies.
Under the terms of the contract valued at $824.8 million, TRW will design and fabricate the observatory's primary mirror and spacecraft. TRW also will be responsible for integrating the science instrument module into the spacecraft as well as performing the pre-flight testing and on-orbit checkout of the observatory.
The Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., manages the James Webb Space Telescope for the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The program has a number of industry, academic and government partners, as well as the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
NASA RELEASE: c02-s, July 9, 2002
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company's Missiles and Space Operations, Sunnyvale, Calif., has received a contract modification valued at $123 million from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., for work to be performed in support of Servicing Mission 4, the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Servicing Mission 4 is scheduled for February 2004,
Under terms of the contract, Lockheed will be responsible for implementing the Servicing Mission 4 and for post- servicing-mission observatory-verification efforts to ensure the newly installed equipment is working properly and the telescope is ready to resume its scientific observations.
Lockheed and its subcontractors will be responsible for designing, building, testing and integrating the new systems into Hubble, including new batteries, new gyroscopes and a new Aft Shroud Cooling System. The new cooling system will carry heat away from scientific instruments and allow the instruments to operate better at lower temperatures. It also will allow multiple instruments to operate simultaneously, helping the science team maintain the program's high productivity.
Hubble's remaining original Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) also will be changed out during the flight. Hubble has three of these sensors, which are systematically refurbished and upgraded in "round-robin" fashion, one per servicing mission. By the conclusion of SM4 all three FGSs will have been brought up to optimum condition.
Lockheed also will be responsible for the integration of two new science Instruments to be installed on the SM 4 flight: the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera Three.
PRESS RELEASE NO.: STScI-PR02-13
After more than three years of inactivity, the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has reopened its "near-infrared eyes" on the universe, snapping several breathtaking views, from the craggy interior of a star-forming cloud to a revealing look at the heart of an edge-on galaxy. Peering into our stellar backyard, NICMOS peeled back the outer layers of the Cone Nebula to see the underlying dusty "bedrock" in this stellar "pillar of creation." The camera^Òs penetrating vision also sliced through the edge-on dusty disk of a galaxy, NGC 4013, like our Milky Way to peer all the way into the galaxy's core. Astronomers were surprised to see what appears to be an edge-on ring of stars, 720 light-years across, encircling the nucleus. Though such star-rings are not uncommon in barred spiral galaxies, only NICMOS has the resolution to see the ring buried deep inside an edge-on galaxy. The camera then peered far across the universe to witness a galactic car wreck between four galaxies, which is creating a torrent of new stars. The colliding system of galaxies, called IRAS 19297-0406, glows fiercely in infrared light because the flocks of new stars are generating a large amount of dust.
To see and read more, please click on:
ESA Press Release, 4/30/02
Jubilant astronomers today unveiled humankind's most spectacular views of the Universe as captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's new Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). They also reported that Hubble is operating superbly since the March servicing mission and are looking forward to more pictures from the newly revived NICMOS camera.
According to an article in NATURE for 14 March 2002, NSAA plans to return
the Hubble Space Telescope to Earth in 2010 and to put it in the National Air
and Space Museum. The claim is that they need to retire it to have the money
for the Next Generation Space Telescope, now scheduled for launch in 2009.
But some scientists are arguing that we should prolong the lifetime of Hubble past 2010. Currently, the last upgrade mission is scheduled for 2004. Prolonging the lifetime would mean that another upgrade mission should be scheduled in about 2007. At the moment, the extra expense seems unlikely.
reference: Tony Reichhardt, "NASA urged to play waiting game on Hubble's retirement," Nature, 416, 14 March 2002, p. 112.
In a week of spacewalking during March 2002, NASA astronauts made a variety of upgrades to the Hubble Space Telescope. The major scientific gain was the installation of the Advanced Camera for Surveys. This camera has a wider field of view than the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 and is several times more sensitive, so we should have even more and even better images. The WFPC2 will remain installed so that its different filter set can remain in use simultaneously with ACS. Also, ACS doesn't have the weird cut-out shape that WFPC2's CCD's have, so the photos will be able to look square.
Scientifically, the astronauts also installed a cooler to try to resurrect the infrared camera that ran out of coolant after its normal two-years of coolant lifetime. In addition, the astronauts installed new solar panels. They are rigid, so there should be less flexure as the Hubble goes in and out of daylight each orbit, losing observing time. They give 20% more power than the old panels, which were losing efficiency, so several instruments can remain on simultaneously. Also, a new wiring controller for the electricity had to be installed. But to do the installation, astronauts had to turn Hubble off, which hadn't been done in the 12 years it had had in orbit. So people were nervous that it wouldn't go back on, but that worry was, fortunately, unfounded. (It had been turned off and on various times in the lab before launch.)
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been pushing the frontiers of astronomy since its launch in 1990. The orbiting observatory has watched a comet disintegrate as it passed by the Sun and pinpointed a massive star that exploded 10 billion years ago. It has provided a view of a bewildering zoo of young galaxies that existed when the cosmos was a youngster. It has measured the expansion rate of the universe and detected clumps of matter - perhaps the seeds of planets - swirling around nascent stars.
Now its time to expand Hubble's vision even further during Servicing Mission 3B, scheduled to begin Feb. 28, 2002, with the launch of the space shuttle Columbia. The mission will give the orbital observatory a series of midlife upgrades that includes the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), a new instrument package that will increase Hubble's already formidable capacity for discoveries tenfold, according to the leader of the team that built it.
"If you had two fireflies six feet apart in Tokyo, Hubble's vision with ACS will be so fine that it will be able to tell from Washington that they were two different fireflies instead of one," says Holland Ford, professor of astronomy in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University and leader of the team that built the ACS over a five-year period.
Ford thinks there's an outside chance that the ACS might even be powerful enough to obtain "direct evidence" - i.e., an image of some type - of planets in other, nearby solar systems. Although planets have been detected around many stars, all of them have been inferred through the gravitational wobbles they impart to their stars, rather than detected through a direct image of the planets themselves.
"I think that there is a chance" we'll be able to directly image a planet, says Ford, clearly tantalized by the prospect. "It's going to be difficult, for sure, but we're going to try it."
The ACS will replace the Faint Object Camera, which is the last of Hubble's original instruments. After catching Hubble with the shuttle's robot arm and securing it in the shuttle's payload bay, spacewalking astronauts will open the servicing doors on Hubble, remove the Faint Object Camera, and install the ACS.
Scientists and engineers who contributed to the ACS came from across the country, but are primarily found at Hopkins, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Ball Aerospace Corp., and the Space Telescope Science Institute. (A complete list of project staff is available at http://acs.pha.jhu.edu/general/personnel/sci-team/.)
The ACS weighs 870 pounds and is "about the size of an old-fashioned phone booth," according to Ford. Inside the ACS are three electronic cameras (the wide-field, high-resolution, and solar blind cameras), and a range of filters, polarizers, dispersers and other astronomical tools. ACS can detect radiation ranging from the ultraviolet portion of the spectrum, through visible light, to a portion of the spectrum known as the near infrared.
All the ACS instruments take advantage of new techniques and technology developed since Hubble's inception to deliver increased observing power at greatly reduced costs.
In comparison to the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, another instrument already in use in Hubble, the ACS will provide two times the observational area, two times the resolution and four times the sensitivity.
"This means a single ACS image will capture more objects in more detail and at a faster rate than before," says Frank Summers, an astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute.
For example, astronomers like to use Hubble to probe the distant reaches of the universe in a project known as a deep-field survey. If they probe to the same distances as previous surveys, researchers should be able to finish their work approximately ten times faster, reducing their observation time on the telescope from twenty days to just a few days.
ACS also contains an instrument known as a coronagraph that will allow astronomers to block out small bright sources of light in order examine the details of structures around the light sources. Ford noted that this might allow astronomers to search for warps and gaps in the disks of gas and dust surrounding nearby stars that may be early signs of planet formation. The coronagraph will also be very useful to astronomers who study quasars, powerful distant objects in the farthest reaches of the universe that are thought to be highly active black holes in the center of galaxies.
"We're looking forward to taking images of quasars, and seeing the structures that surround the quasars much better with the ACS's higher resolution and higher sensitivity, but especially with the ACS's ability to block the extremely bright emissions coming from the quasar," explains Ford.
Ford and other astronomers have many other ideas for using the ACS, including taking a closer, more detailed look at the weather on planets in our solar system, and no less ambitious a project than verifying the celestial yardstick astronomers have used for several decades to gauge distances around the universe.
"ACS has a set of filters that lets us take pictures in polarized light, which in effect can allow us to see around corners," says Ford. "We plan to use the polarizers to make some geometric measurements of distances using light echoes from supernovae. This will give us very important checks on how we bootstrap distances across the universe."
Noting Hubble's history of astonishing images and breakthrough discoveries, Ford says he's positive that the ACS will help keep Hubble "on the astronomical forefront that the public has come to expect of the Space Telescope."
More information on the Advanced Camera for Surveys is available at web sites:
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).
Fort Davis, Texas -- McDonald Observatory staff are cutting garage-door-sized holes all around the enclosure of the 9.2-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), and fitting them with giant steel "venetian blinds" called louvers. This should allow the HET, one of the world's largest telescopes, to operate at the same temperature as the outside air.
"You can't beat Mother Nature," said HET Chief Engineer John Booth. "This should go a long way toward allowing the HET to produce sharp astronomical images.
"The problem is heat. As the temperature drops outside at night, the walls of the dome keep the air inside warmer than the air outside," Booth said. "When the warm air and cool air mix, at the location of the dome opening, they bend the light rays coming into the telescope. This mixing creates what we call bad "seeing" -- it blurs the images of stars and galaxies we want to study."
So after consultations and tests, McDonald Observatory decided to "open up the dome," to allow wind to blow through the building. This is being done by cutting 15-foot by 17-foot windows in the bottom half of the building, called the ring wall. The first cut was made on January 8. After each opening is cut, a pair of louvers -- which looks like a huge venetian blind with four blades -- is lifted by a crane attached to the rotating portion of the dome. Each pair of louvers weighs 5,000 pounds -- about the same as a large sport utility vehicle. The first louver was lifted into place on February 1. In all, 26 louvers (12 pairs and two singles) will be installed at the HET by May.
This is the first stage in the $500,000 HET dome ventilation project. Smaller heat sources, including a few instruments on the telescope itself, will also be shielded or moved out of the dome. Later, smaller louvers will be installed in the upper, geodesic part of the dome.
Would you have guessed, in advance, Chandra as the new name for the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility? Hubble as the new name for the Space Telescope? You get another chance to suggest a name. After whom should the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) be named? Send your entry to http://sirtf.caltech.edu/namingcontest. The first name that came to my mind is Herschel, who discovered infrared radiation, but that name is already taken for a European Space Agency infrared mission in about 2007.
Scheduled for launch in February 2005, the instruments on Astro-E2 will provide powerful tools to use the Universe as a laboratory for unraveling complex, high-energy processes and the behavior of matter under extreme conditions. These include the fate of matter as it spirals into black holes, the nature of supermassive black holes found at the center of quasars, the 100 million degree gas that is flowing into giant clusters of galaxies, and the nature of supernova explosions that create the heavier elements, which ultimately form planets.
NASA will provide the core instrument, the high resolution X- Ray Spectrometer (XRS). The XRS will be the first X-ray microcalorimeter array to be placed in orbit. It measures the heat created by individual X-ray photons.
The XRS operates at a temperature of 65 mK, which is about - -459.6 F, only 1/10 degree above absolute zero, and is held at this temperature by a three stage cooling system developed jointly by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Japan. The cryogenic system is capable of maintaining the temperature of the microcalorimeter array for about two years in orbit.
Japan will provide the other instruments on Astro-E2, a set of four X-ray cameras and a high-energy X-ray detector. NASA will also provide the five X-ray telescopes required to focus X- rays on the XRS and the X-ray cameras.
"This increased precision for measuring X-rays should allow fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of essentially all types of X-ray emitting sources," said Dr. Richard Kelley, principal investigator for the U.S. participation of Astro-E2 at Goddard. "This will be especially true of matter very close to black holes and the X-ray emitting gas in clusters of galaxies."
For more additional information on the World Wide Web about Astro-E, visit:
STScI Press Release
Frosty white water ice clouds and swirling orange dust storms above a vivid rusty landscape reveal Mars as a dynamic planet in this sharpest view ever obtained by an Earth-based telescope.
NASA's Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope took the picture on June 26, when Mars was approximately 43 million miles (68 million km) from Earth -- the closest Mars has ever been to Earth since 1988. Hubble can see details as small as 10 miles (16 km) across. The colors have been carefully balanced to give a realistic view of Mars' hues as they might appear through a telescope.
Especially striking is the large amount of seasonal dust storm activity seen in this image. One large storm system is churning high above the northern polar cap [top of image], and a smaller dust storm cloud can be seen nearby. Another large dust storm is spilling out of the giant Hellas impact basin in the Southern Hemisphere [lower right].
Hubble has observed Mars before, but never in such detail. The biennial close approaches of Mars and Earth are not all the same. Mars' orbit around the Sun is markedly elliptical; the close approaches to Earth can range from 35 million to 63 million miles.
Astronomers are interested in studying the changeable surface and weather conditions on Mars, in part, to help plan for a pair of NASA missions to land rovers on the planet's surface in 2004.
The Mars opposition of 2001 serves as a prelude for 2003 when Mars and Earth will come within 35 million miles of each other, the closest since 1924 and not to be matched until 2287.
Image Credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: J. Bell (Cornell U.), P. James (U. Toledo), M. Wolff (Space Science Institute), A. Lubenow (STScI), J. Neubert (MIT/Cornell)
Electronic images and additional information are available at:
Each day, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope collects enough information and images to fill five encyclopedias. Now, anyone with access to a computer and the World Wide Web can see the most exciting pictures captured by the world's first space-based optical telescope.
The web site "Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe," highlights the unique contributions to astronomy by this tireless observatory. The exhibition was developed by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), Baltimore, MD, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution.
The new Internet portal seeks to simulate the experience of visiting the Smithsonian exhibition, which is now touring the country. Support for developing this exhibition was provided by NASA and the Lockheed-Martin Corporation.
Since its launch in 1990, the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope has provided unprecedented views of the Universe. Using spectacular Hubble images, the exhibition and its companion web site take visitors on a fascinating exploration of Martian weather, colliding galaxies, the tumultuous life cycles of stars, very distant celestial objects, and even a comet colliding with Jupiter.
The web site shares many of the physical exhibition's features, such as videos, a roadmap of how long the light from different objects in space takes to reach us here on Earth and virtual reality activities, which gives users a true hands-on experience of the orbiting observer.
"Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe" is a special feature of HubbleSite, Hubble's official online home and the web's most comprehensive source of Hubble news, pictures, information, and educational resources. Both web sites were developed by STScI, which manages the science program for the Hubble Space Telescope and is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. for NASA, under contract with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.
To experience "Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe," visit: