Back in May, astronauts visited the Hubble Space Telescope to install
new hardware and make repairs to the aging observatory. The upgrades
were a sucess. To prove it NASA today released spectacular first
images from the rejuvenated Great Observatory. Get the full
story from Science@NASA.
WHAT WAS THAT?
Sky watchers across North America witnessed a strange event on Wednesday
night. As space shuttle Discovery glided silently overhead, the
orbiter sprouted a flamboyant comet-like tail. Clair Perry sends
this picture from Prince Edward Island, Canada:
Photo details: Canon
40D, 17-35mm lens. 30 sec, ISO 500
"The shuttle put on a major light show,"
In Madison, Wisconsin, photographer Abe Megahed witnessed
a similar display: "The shuttle was sporting a massive
curved plume. What could it be? Something venting? Reaction
Control System thrusters? A massive, record-breaking urine dump?"
Stop laughing. Shuttle pilot Kevin Ford was indeed
to carry out a number of "waste water" dumps over a several
hour period around the time of these observations. Pristine water
supplies and condensates were also dumped overboard in preparation
for landing on Thursday, Sept. 10th.
Thursday's landing opportunities at the Kennedy Space
Center begin with a planned deorbit burn at 5:59 p.m. EDT and a
daylight landing at 7:05 p.m. The next opportunity is one hour after
sunset with the deorbit burn at 7:36 p.m. EDT and a landing at 8:42
Check the Simple Satellite Tracker
for last-chance flybys.
INNER SPACE TERRANAUTS:
This week, while astronauts orbited high
above Earth installing new science equipment in the laboratories
of the International Space Station, a team of terranauts
descended into the Earth on their own mission of discovery. "We
were not in outer space, but inner space," says explorer George
Kourounis, who sends this picture from the Cave
of Crystals in Naica, Mexico:
more images: #1,
Three hundred meters below Naica lies an alien world of giant crystals
and nearly unbearable heat. "With an air temperature of 122
F and a relative humidity of more than 90%, it feels like 228 F
in the cave," says Kourounis. "To survive in this extreme
environment, we enter the cave wearing special suits with cooling
packs inside and a backpack respirator which allows us to breath
chilled air. Even with all this equipment, I will still be able
to stay in the cave for no more than 45 minutes at a time."
Unprotected, even a scant 10 minutes could prove fatal--and that
is why this amazing cavern discovered by miners nine years ago remains
relatively unexplored. "Some of the crystals are 11 meters
long and weigh as much as 55 tons," marvels Kourounis. "We
had to be extremely cautious not to slip and fall. Doing so could
get you impaled."
"Wearing the suit," he adds, "you feel like an astronaut
who is about to go on a space walk." Make that an inner
space walk. Click
here for more pictures and anecdotes from the Cave of Crystals.
2009 Aurora Gallery
[previous Augusts: 2008,
the Sunspot Cycle