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Dark matter clumps and streams in

Milky Way

...researchers have reason to believe that dense clumps and streams of dark matter lurk in the inner regions of the Milky Way’s galactic halo...

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Globular clusters reveal secrets of galactic cannibalism

...thousands of globular clusters more than five billion years old are yielding clues about their creation and existence. ...

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The very first stars

...thanks to a revolutionary new computer simulation created by astrophysicists from Japan and America, the very first instance that stars breathed light on the Universe have been mimicked...

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Video archive

STS-120 day 2 highlights

Flight Day 2 of Discovery's mission focused on heat shield inspections. This movie shows the day's highlights.


STS-120 day 1 highlights

The highlights from shuttle Discovery's launch day are packaged into this movie.


STS-118: Highlights

The STS-118 crew, including Barbara Morgan, narrates its mission highlights film and answers questions in this post-flight presentation.

 Full presentation
 Mission film

STS-120: Rollout to pad

Space shuttle Discovery rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building and travels to launch pad 39A for its STS-120 mission.


Dawn leaves Earth

NASA's Dawn space probe launches aboard a Delta 2-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral to explore two worlds in the asteroid belt.

 Full coverage

Dawn: Launch preview

These briefings preview the launch and science objectives of NASA's Dawn asteroid orbiter.

 Launch | Science

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Hubble celebrates 100,000 trips around the Earth

Posted: August 11, 2008

The Hubble Space Telescope is today celebrating its 100,000th orbit around the Earth since its launch over 18 years ago, with the release of a spectacular image of a fantasy-like landscape embellished with scenes of stellar birth and renewal.

Hubble has travelled around 2.72 billion miles – the
equivalent of 5,700 round trips to the Moon – at a tireless rate of around five miles per second since its launch on 24 April 1990, quite an achievement considering its only fuel is Earth's gravity that seamlessly maintains its circular orbit. In celebration of the impressive 100,000 orbit milestone, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) has released a sensational new image from the natural star-forming laboratory in the Milky Way’s local group of galaxies.

Hubble’s 100,000th orbit is celebrated by the release of this fantasy-like image showing a region of celestial birth and renewal near the Tarantula Nebula, 170,000 light years from Earth, in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The sea horse shaped pillar in the lower right is approximately 20 light years long, and the whole scene spans about 100 light years. Red colours represent emission from sulphur, green from hydrogen and blue from oxygen. Image: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio (STScI).

The telescope trained its eyes on a small portion of a nebula near the star cluster NGC 2074, a region jeweled with the sights of raw stellar creation, likely triggered by a nearby supernova explosion. The dazzling snapshot paints a three-dimensional picture of stellar nurseries, showing dramatic ridges and serpent-head ‘pillars of creation’ along with glowing gaseous filaments that are bathed in torrential ultraviolet radiation.

The high-energy radiation blazing out from clusters of hot young stars already born in NGC 2074 is sculpting the wall of the nebula by slowly eroding it away. Another young cluster may be hidden beneath a circle of brilliant blue gas seen in the centre towards the bottom of the image.

Despite its dedicating trekking, however, Hubble is still subject to wear and tear, particularly through micrometeorite impacts, sunlight and temperature extremes that corrode its thermal insulating shell. As a result the telescope will receive a final servicing this autumn, when astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis will carry out a space-based MOT, replace worn components and install brand new instruments to extend Hubble's vision for at least another five years, if not longer. Among the new instruments are The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, which will observe light from extremely faint, distant quasars, and the Wide Field Camera 3 which will allow pictures to be taken across an even wider range of colours and in even greater detail than ever before achieved.

The repair mission is due for launch on October 8, and will span 11 days in order to complete 5 spacewalks.