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NASA’s Space Communications Testbed

In this image from late 2010, software engineers worked in the background as Glenn Research Center technician, Joe Kerka, rotated the SCaN flight enclosure assembly. The and Navigation, or SCaN will be launched on a Japanese H–IIB Transfer Vehicle and installed on the International Space Station and will provide an on-orbit, adaptable software-defined radio facility with corresponding ground and operational systems. This will permit mission operators to remotely change the functionality of radio communications and offer the flexibility to adapt to new science opportunities and recover from anomalies within the science payload or communication system. This effort is sponsored by the SCaN Program as part of the , CoNNeCT, or Communications, Navigation, and Networking reConfigurable Project led by Glenn Research Center.

The Glenn Research Center will host a media event at 10:30 am on Friday, Feb. 10, to showcase the SCaN Testbed before it is shipped to Japan.

Image Credit: NASA/Quentin L. Schwinn

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Preview of a Forthcoming Supernova

NASA’s Hubble Telescope captured an image of Eta Carinae. This image consists of ultraviolet and visible light images from the High Resolution Channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. The field of view is approximately 30 arcseconds across.

The larger of the two stars in the Eta Carinae system is a huge and unstable star that is nearing the end of its life, and the event that the 19th century astronomers observed was a stellar near-death experience. Scientists call these outbursts impostor events, because they appear similar to supernovae but stop just short of destroying their star.

Although 19th century astronomers did not have telescopes powerful enough to see the 1843 outburst in detail, its effects can be studied today. The huge clouds of matter thrown out a century and a half ago, known as the Homunculus Nebula, have been a regular target for Hubble since its launch in 1990. This image, taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys High Resolution Channel, is the most detailed yet, and shows how the material from the star was not thrown out in a uniform manner, but forms a huge dumbbell shape.

Eta Carinae is one of the stars to Earth that is likely to explode in a supernova in the relatively near future (though in astronomical timescales the “near future” could still be a million years away). When it does, expect an impressive view from Earth, far brighter still than its last outburst: SN 2006gy, the brightest supernova ever observed, came from a star of the same type, though from a galaxy over 200 million light-years away.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA

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Aurora Borealis Over the Midwest

Aurora Borealis Over the Midwest

In this image taken on Jan. 25, 2012, the steals the scene in this nighttime photograph shot from the International Station as the orbital outpost flew over the . The spacecraft was above south central Nebraska when the photo was taken. The image, taken at an oblique angle, looks north to northeast.

Image Credit: NASA

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Remnant of a Supernova

Vital clues about the devastating ends to the lives of massive stars can be found by studying the aftermath of their explosions. In its more than twelve years of science operations, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has studied many of these remnants sprinkled across the galaxy.

The latest example of this important investigation is Chandra’s new image of the supernova known as G350.1+0.3. This stellar debris field is located some 14,700 light years from the Earth toward the center of the Milky Way.

Evidence from Chandra and from ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope suggest that a compact object within G350.1+0.3 may be the dense core of the star that exploded. The position of this likely neutron star, seen by the arrow pointing to “neutron star” in the inset image, is well away from the center of the X-ray emission. If the supernova explosion occurred near the center of the X-ray emission then the neutron star must have received a powerful kick in the supernova explosion.

Data suggest this supernova remnant, as it appears in the image, is 600 and 1,200 years old. If the estimated location of the explosion is correct, this means the neutron star has been moving at a speed of at least 3 million miles per hour since the explosion.

Another intriguing aspect of G350.1+0.3 is its unusual shape. Many supernova remnants are nearly circular, but G350.1+0.3 is strikingly asymmetrical as seen in the Chandra data in this image (gold). Infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Telescope (light blue) also trace the morphology found by Chandra. Astronomers think that this bizarre shape is due to stellar debris field expanding into a nearby of cold molecular gas.

The age of 600-1,200 years puts the explosion that created G350.1+0.3 in the same time frame as other famous supernovas that formed the Crab and SN 1006 supernova remnants. However, it is unlikely that anyone on Earth would have seen the explosion because of the obscuring gas and dust that lies along our line of sight to the remnant.

These results appeared in the April 10, 2011 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/I. Lovchinsky et al; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Voyage

Columbia

On the craft’s maiden , the crew of shuttle Columbia took this image that showcases the blackness of and a blue and white Earth, as well as the cargo bay and aft section of the shuttle. The image was photographed through the flight deck’s aft windows. In the lower right corner is one of the vehicle’s radiator panels. The pentagon-shaped object in the upper left is glare caused by window reflection.

STS-1, Columbia’s maiden voyage, launched on April 12, 1981, and was the inaugural flight in the Space Shuttle Program. Columbia and its crew were lost during STS-107 mission in 2003. As the shuttle lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 16, a small portion of foam broke away from the external fuel tank and struck the orbiter’s left wing. The resulting damage created a hole in the wing’s leading edge, which caused the vehicle to break apart during reentry on Feb. 1.

Image Credit: NASA

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Brazilian Youth Ambassadors Visit NASA Headquarters

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden played host to 45 on Friday, Jan. 27, in the NASA Headquarters auditorium, where he delivered an educational outreach presentation. The Brazilians are participating in a three-week U.S. Department of State youth exchange program for outstanding Brazilian public school students.

The Department of State requested this special presentation for the Brazilian students as a follow on to the Administrator’s successful outreach activities during his trip to Brazil in October 2011. His presentation to students at the National Institute of Research facilities in São José dos Campos was simulcast by the U.S. Embassy and viewed by nearly 3,000 people throughout the country.

The Youth Ambassadors are young people in pursuit of academic and professional success who make a difference in their communities through their leadership and volunteer work. As ambassadors, the students also have an opportunity to fulfill a very important mission – to introduce a little bit of Brazil to the United States. Since 2002, the program has benefited some 250 young Brazilians. The Youth Ambassadors Program has now expanded to more than 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere.

During the students first week in the United States, Youth Ambassadors visited Washington, D.C. and took part in meetings with government officials, visiting schools and social projects. The young Brazilians strengthened their leadership skills through workshops and lectures during these visits.

They then traveled to host states, where they stayed with volunteer families. They attended classes at local schools, took part in volunteer activities, gave presentations about Brazil, and interacted with the community. The program offered a unique opportunity to learn about the U.S. culture and practice English. After their return home, the students will implement community service projects they developed during their exchange program.

Image Credit: NASA/Paul Alers

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Cloud streets off of the Aleutian Islands

Strong winds polished the snow of southwestern Alaska and stretched marine stratocumulus clouds into long, parallel in early January, 2012. After crossing Bristol Bay, the winds scraped the clouds across the tall volcanic peaks of the . As the wind impacted the immobile mountains, the airflow became turbulent, swirling in symmetric eddies and carving intricate patterns into the clouds on the leeward side of the .

At the top of this image, the bright white color indicates a thick layer of snow overlying the land of southwestern Alaska. The pristine white is broken by the rugged Ahklun Mountain Range in the east, which is partially covered by a bank of clouds.

Off the coast of Alaska, sea ice floats in Bristol Bay, cracked and chipped by the flow of the waters which lie underneath. A few streets – parallel lines of clouds – can be seen in the far northwest over land. The clouds increase over the sea ice and become thick over open water, where row upon row of clouds lie close in perfectly parallel formation.

The Aleutian Islands stretch from northeast to southwest across the image. Sea ice, which is bright white here, lies on the windward side of the islands. A few of the tallest volcanic peaks can be seen rising from the icy islands.

The character of the cloud streets change as they impact the Aleutians, especially near the center of the image, where two rows of beautifully symmetric swirls of eddies in the clouds stretch across the sky. These swirling formations are known as von Karman vortex streets. This true-color image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite on January 11, 2012.

Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team

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Blue Marble

A ‘Blue ’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.

Suomi NPP is NASA’s next Earth-observing research satellite. It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.

Suomi NPP is carrying five instruments on board. The biggest and most important instrument is The Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite or VIIRS.

Image Credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring

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Construction Begins on Atlantis’ Permanent Home

Construction Begins on Atlantis' Permanent Home

With shuttle ’ 25-year spaceflight career now in the history books, its next mission — to inform and inspire generations of visitors to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida — is one step closer to reality. A groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 18 officially launched of a new 65,000-square-foot exhibit at the complex’s Space Shuttle Plaza, where NASA’s fourth space-rated orbiter will be the main attraction.

This artist rendering reveals a full-scale external tank and twin solid rocket booster replicas standing at the exhibit entrance.

Image Credit: NASA/PGAV Destinations for Delaware North Parks & Resorts

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Closest Dione Flyby

Flying past Saturn’s moon , Cassini captured this view which includes two smaller moons, Epimetheus and Prometheus, near the planet’s rings.

The image was taken in visible light with Cassini’s narrow-angle camera during the spacecraft’s of Dione on Dec. 12, 2011. This encounter was the spacecraft’s pass of the moon’s surface, but, because this flyby was intended primarily for other Cassini instruments, it did not yield Cassini’s best images of the moon. Higher resolution images were obtained during earlier flybys (see PIA07638).

Dione (698 miles, or 1,123 kilometers across) is closest to Cassini here and is on the left of the image. Potato-shaped Prometheus (53 miles, or 86 kilometers across) appears above the rings near the center top of the image. Epimetheus (70 miles, or 113 kilometers across) is on the right.

This view looks toward the northern, sunlit side of the rings from less than one degree above the ring plane. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 67,000 miles (108,000 kilometers) from Dione. Image scale is 2,122 feet (647 meters) per pixel on Dione.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ Science Institute

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