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HubbleSOURCE

Informal Science Education Resources
from the home of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope

Webcasts &
Telecons

Hubble Science Briefings

Connect to Hubble via a toll-free phone callIn monthly telecons crafted especially for museum and planetarium professionals, you will learn about the latest science discoveries from the telescope, and get direct access to the scientists and technicians who run the observatory and make the discoveries. Bring your love of astronomy and your best questions for an engaging monthly dose of professional development.

Hubble Science Briefings are offered on the first Thursday of every month through NASA's Museum Alliance. Telecon information and presentation materials will be made available in advance on the Alliance website and through Alliance mailings. If you haven't joined the Museum Alliance yet, now is the time to become a member of this important avenue for resources and networking.

We welcome suggestions for topics, speakers, and features that you would like to see in Hubble Science Briefings.

OCTOBER 2014 BRIEFING:

Tracing the Lifecycle of Planetary Systems around stars (slightly) more massive than the Sun

John Debes, ESA/AURA astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute

The past thirty years have seen an explosion in our understanding for the evolution of planetary systems, but they have primarily been around stars slightly more massive than our own Sun. Dr. John Debes will talk about what we know, what we think we know, and what remains mysterious about these related planetary systems. Observations exist for stars that have just been born, all the way through to the last gasps of a star's life. At each evolutionary stage, astronomers directly detect or indirectly infer the presence of planetary systems that show a wide array of properties that potentially tell us an important story about our place as an intelligent civilization in the Milky Way.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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     Slide Presentation: PDF Format (3 MB)     PPT Format (5 MB)

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SEPTEMBER 2014 BRIEFING:

The Real World: Black Hole Edition

Eileen Meyer, Space Telescope Science Institute

When most people think of black holes, they imagine an impossibly dark region of space sucking in everything in sight. But in reality, the most massive black holes (up to a billion times the mass of our sun) are often surrounded by extremely bright accretion disks, and spew out far more matter than they take in — in the most extreme cases, generating huge jets of ionized plasma moving near the speed of light, on scales bigger than many galaxies. In this talk, Dr. Eileen Meyer will review what we know about these billion-solar-mass monsters: how we know they exist, how we measure them, their curious tendency to re-distribute matter and energy on huge scales, and what that might mean for the evolution of the Universe as we know it. Dr. Meyer will highlight some recent results from the Hubble Space Telescope, in which hundreds of images of one of these black hole jets, taken over the span of 15 years, have been turned into a movie, in which we can track individual blobs of plasma as they fly outward from the black hole.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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AUGUST 2014 BRIEFING:

Reach for the Stars : Touch, Look, Listen, Learn - Accessible eBook

Elena Sabbi, Space Telescope Science Institute
Ada Lopez, SAS Curriculum Pathways
Ed Summers, SAS Institute, Inc.

"Reach for the Stars" is a free eBook that can be downloaded from the iBook store, and is aimed at a Middle School audience but is appropriate for many ages. The eBook takes advantage of all the accessibility features (such as VoiceOver) available on an iPad to convince children with disabilities that they too can be seen pushing the barriers of science. Tactile overlays are available to help visually impaired people to explore graphs and Hubble Space Telescope images. Supplemental material has been designed for educators — and in particular for educators of children with disabilities — to show how to take full advantage of these eBook capabilities. In this talk, Dr. Elena Sabbi will discuss the process of creating an astronomy book for the visually impaired, including barriers and how they were overcome. "Reach for the Stars" was inspired by the latest HST images of the Tarantula Nebula, the nearest starburst region, and is the result of the collaboration between professional astronomers at STScI and professional educators at SAS, and was financed by an HST E/PO NASA grant.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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MAY 2014 BRIEFING:

Moonrise: the surprisingly diverse array of moons in our solar system

Bonnie Meinke, Space Telescope Science Institute

Throughout human history, the Moon has been a familiar fixture in our sky. While the Earth's Moon is so familiar to us, there are hundreds of other moons in our solar system that still remain exotic. In this briefing, we will journey from our Moon to the weird and wonderful collection of moons beyond Earth. We will explore volcanoes, oceans, and clouds that make these distant worlds much more familiar than you might have guessed. We will explore how these familiar geologic features could create ideal conditions for life to take hold and flourish!

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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APRIL 2014 BRIEFING:

Hubble Science Briefing: The Monkey's Tooth? Hubble's new infrared view of a star-forming pillar

Zolt Levay, Space Telescope Science Institute

The Hubble Space Telescope has produced a new and different view of a detail in the star-forming nebula NGC 2174 (The Monkey Head) to kick off Hubble's 25th year in operation. Zolt Levay will describe newly revealed features in this remarkable landscape. He will also relate the planning and execution of these observations, including some surprises and drama, reflecting the rewarding but sometimes risky nature of using telescopes in space.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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MARCH 2014 BRIEFING:

Hubble Science Briefing: Delivering JWST Science, from Exoplanets to First Light: The Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS)

Alex Fullerton, Space Telescope Science Institute

The Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) is the scientific part of Canadas hardware contribution to the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Although it is the least complex of the four science instruments onboard JWST, NIRISS will provide several unique observational capabilities. These special observing modes will be described in the context of the exciting scientific problems they will be able to address, which range from searching for first light in the early universe to determining the atmospheric composition of planets around nearby stars. The status of NIRISS and preparations for the second cryogenic test campaign of the JWST instruments at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center will also be reviewed.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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FEBRUARY 2014 BRIEFING:

Hubble Observations of Main Belt Comets or "Active Asteroids"

Max Mutchler, Space Telescope Science Institute

Since 2010, a series of Hubble observations has been conducted to help characterize a recently discovered class of Solar System objects known as Main Belt Comets. These objects can be more accurately described as "active asteroids" — they have circular orbits in the Main Asteroid Belt, but they appear to exhibit comet-like activity. A recent observation revealed an asteroid sprouting six tails! Along with discoveries of frosty asteroids, and water vapor emanating from the largest asteroid Ceres, there is the tantalizing possibility that Main Belt Comets can help explain how Earth's oceans formed.

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JANUARY 2014 BRIEFING:

The Frontier Fields: a Sneak Peek at the First Billion Years of the Universe

Jennifer Lotz, Space Telescope Science Institute

How we far can we go? What are the faintest objects the Hubble Space Telescope can possibly see? Can we get a sneak peek at the early universe before the James Webb Space Telescope is launched? These are the key questions we hope to answer with the new Frontier Fields campaign. Over the next three years, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) will attempt to push the Hubble Space Telescopes capabilities to its limits. This will be accomplished by combining the power of Hubble with the natural gravitational telescopes of massive clusters of galaxies that magnify more distant galaxies. Hubble will obtain the deepest ever optical and infrared images of six massive clusters, in parallel with the second-deepest images of six neighboring blank fields. These images will reveal galaxies about 10-20 times fainter than any previously seen, allowing astronomers to study the birth of galaxies like our own Milky Way.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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DECEMBER 2013 BRIEFING:

Refusing to Go Quietly: Gamma-Ray Bursts and their Progenitors

Andrew Fruchter, Space Telescope Science Institute

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the most brilliant objects in the universe. Some are initially bright enough to be seen by the unaided eye across a distance of billions of light years. Yet the majority of GRBs which are detected, the so-called long GRBs, are, like most supernovae, produced by the collapse of a massive star. Dr. Fruchter will discuss the types of stars and environmental conditions which in rare circumstances create these extraordinarily powerful explosions, and with them the fastest known bulk motion in the universe (> 99.999% the speed of light). He will also describe the less frequently detected and even more poorly understood short GRBs. Recent observations may have provided final proof that these bursts are created by the merger of two compact remnants of dead stars, such as neutron stars and black holes, and that this process may be responsible for most of the heavy elements (such as gold and uranium) in the universe. These mergers may also soon be the first objects directly detected as sources of gravitational radiation.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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LATE NOVEMBER 2013 BRIEFING:

The Near-Infrared Spectrograph on JWST: Killer Science Enabled by Amazing Technology

Jason Tumlinson, Space Telescope Science Institute

The Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) will be the workhorse spectroscopic instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), to be launched by NASA, ESA, and CSA in 2018. NIRSpec will make fundamental contributions to our understanding of the first galaxies, the oldest and youngest stars, and of habitability on planets around other stars. Dr. Jason Tumlinson will share some of the amazing technological breakthroughs needed to make this happen, and the science we hope to obtain.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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NOVEMBER 2013 BRIEFING:

Great Comets from Humble Origins & Eyes On ISON

Frank Summers, Space Telescope Science Institute

Comets can be one of the most amazing sights in the heavens, with naked-eye bright comas and tails stretching across half the sky. The most spectacular comet appearances are called "great" comets, but such an occurrence is infrequent enough that it is also nicknamed a "comet of the century". In preparation for the Thanksgiving Day perihelion passage of Comet ISON, along with its great possibilities, it's a proper time to examine the humble origins, from the most rural parts of the solar system, of these briefly blazing celestial sights.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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SEPTEMBER 2013 BRIEFING:

Other Planetary Systems: Architecture Revealed With High-Resolution Imaging

Margaret Moerchen, Space Telescope Science Institute

Over the past decade, we have learned that planets orbiting other stars are common, based on surveys that have detected these so-called exoplanets with various direct and indirect techniques. However, among these great numbers of planetary systems comes great diversity in their architecture. To better understand their formation and likewise the formation of our own solar system, we try to find as many stars as possible where we can study the exo-planetary system as a whole — not only its planets but its dusty belts like our own asteroid belt and Kuiper Belt. Innovative image processing of Hubble Space Telescope data developed by the high-contrast imaging group at STScI is currently enabling us to observe these systems in finer detail than ever before. In this talk, Dr. Moerchen will show examples of images analyzed with these novel techniques and discuss the directly detected planets and dusty debris belts that they reveal.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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AUGUST 2013 BRIEFING:

CANDELS - Observing Galaxy Assembly with the Hubble Space Telescope

Henry Ferguson, Space Telescope Science Institute

In early 2010, a record amount of observing time on the Hubble Space Telescope was awarded to a single project -- The Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS). The survey uses Hubble's infrared camera, WFC3, to study five representative patches of sky, covering a total volume of the universe much larger than any previous high-resolution near-infrared survey. The scientific objectives include finding the most distant supernovae (exploding stars), studying some of the most distant galaxies, and trying to reconstruct how galaxies like the Milky Way evolved from tiny seed galaxies in the early universe.

The observations for the survey will be complete in mid-August 2013, and while it will be several years to fully analyze the data, the CANDELS team has already submitted nearly 30 scientific papers on the survey. This science briefing will focus on highlights from these early results.

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MAY 2013 BRIEFING:

Exoplanet Atmospheres: Insights via the Hubble Space Telescope

Nicolas Crouzet, Space Telescope Science Institute
Drake Deming, University of Maryland
Peter R. McCullough, Space Telescope Science Institute

Exoplanets are now being discovered at an impressive rate. Exoplanet detections are essential in order to estimate their occurrence, and in fact show that planets are very common around other stars. However, only a few exoplanets can be studied in detail. The most favorable cases for detailed study are transiting exoplanets, whereby we observe the dips in starlight from exoplanets passing in front of their parent stars. With its unique accuracy, the Hubble Space Telescope has observed such exoplanets and given us insights into their atmospheres. As a result, we can measure temperatures and detect molecules, which are crucial characteristics of the planets. Recent observations from Hubble bring new elements to our understanding of these atmospheres, which appear more complex than first thought. For this presentation, we review the characteristics of several well-studied exoplanets and present our current view of exoplanet atmospheres.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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APRIL 2013 BRIEFING:

A Horsehead of a Different Color

Zolt Levay, Space Telescope Science Institute

The Hubble Space Telescope has produced a new view of the Horsehead Nebula, commemorating the 23rd anniversary of Hubble's launch. The resulting image provides a dramatically different look at this iconic target in unprecedented detail. Zolt Levay will describe the process of selecting this target, planning the observations, and making the new color image.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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MARCH 2013 BRIEFING:

Selecting the best targets for JWST: My personal journey as a MIRI team scientist

Margaret Meixner, Space Telescope Science Institute

By investigating the nearby Magellanic Clouds, thousands of dust-shrouded young star (Young Stellar Object - YSO) candidates have been discovered, which can be used to study star formation in low metallicity environments. Two such programs, SAGE and HERITAGE, used the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory to survey the Magellanic Clouds in the infrared, where dust emission around YSOs peaks. In order to fully understand the discoveries from these two programs, however, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is needed. While JWST is 5 years away from its launch in 2018, several instruments have been delivered to NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, including the Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI. The tremendous sensitivity advance presented by the JWST instruments, and MIRI in particular, will open a whole new realm of investigations. In this talk, Dr. Margaret Meixner will discuss our present understanding of YSOs in the low-metallicity Magellanic Clouds, the role YSOs play in the lifecycle of normal matter as traced by dust emission, and how studies of dust emission around young stars in more distant galaxies can be pursued using JWST. As a member of the JWST-MIRI Science Team, Dr. Meixner has preallocated time with the James Webb Space Telescope, and she will discuss her personal journey of selecting future potential targets for the MIRI instrument.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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     Slide Presentation: PDF Format (4.2 MB)     PPT Format (4.3 MB)

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FEBRUARY 2013 BRIEFING:

The Brightest Stars Do Not Live Alone

Selma de Mink, Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University

The universe is diverse, and many stars are quite unlike our Sun: some are 10,000 to 100,000 times brighter than the sun. Although such stars are rare, they have a major impact on their surroundings, in which new stars and their planets are forming. They create strong stellar winds and ionizing radiation, and end their lives in spectacular explosions which enrich the Universe with chemical elements such as oxygen. A recent study shows that our understanding of these massive stars had been too simplistic: most of the brightest and most massive stars do not live alone. Three quarters of them are found to have a close companion, far more than previously thought. Such massive binary stars can become vampire stars, where a smaller companion star sucks matter off the surface of its larger neighbor. In about a third of these systems the stars will merge, forming an even more massive and bright star. In other cases one of the stars can be ejected out of the system, forming a runaway star. Dr. Selma de Mink will show examples of how theoretical models and data taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based facilities are used to try to understand the lives of these massive stars and the role they play in the universe.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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JANUARY 2013 BRIEFING:

CLASH Hubble Uses Gravitational Lensing to Discover Most Distant Galaxies

Dan Coe, Space Telescope Science Institute

The Hubble Space Telescope, now in its 23rd year of operation, is more powerful and advanced than ever thanks to Servicing Mission 4 in 2009. Shortly after that mission, the director of the Space Telescope Science Institute challenged astronomers to realize the full potential of the improved telescope by proposing bold new multi-year observing programs. One of the accepted programs is the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH). This program uses massive galaxy clusters that act as cosmic magnifying lenses, magnifying the light of distant galaxies. Dr. Coe will discuss a recent discovery from this program, a candidate for the most distant galaxy yet known, observing 97% of the way back to the big bang. He will also discuss future observations with the Hubble, Spitzer, and James Webb Space Telescopes in our quest to discover the first galaxies.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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     Slide Presentation: PDF Format (3.5 MB)     PPT Format (11 MB)

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DECEMBER 2012 BRIEFING:

The Discovery of Four Moons of Pluto with Hubble

Max Mutchler, Space Telescope Science Institute

Pluto has not easily given up its secrets since being discovered in 1930, and the slow progress in understanding this small icy world has fueled endless debate over whether it should be considered a planet. While the presence of moons is not one of the criteria used to classify whether it is a planet, the discovery of the large moon Charon in 1978 and four smaller moons discovered by Hubble since 2005 have helped characterize Pluto. The Hubble observations are also helping the New Horizons mission plan their flyby of Pluto in July 2015, which will dramatically lift the veil on 85 years of mystery.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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OCTOBER 2012 BRIEFING:

The Making of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field

Massimo Stiavelli, Space Telescope Science Institute

Dr. Massimo Stiavelli will show how progress in the search for the most distant galaxies has been driven by bold observing programs and increasingly more sophisticated instrumentation, made available thanks to successive Hubble Servicing Missions. He will discuss how the deep fields also changed the way astronomy is done, by making unique data sets available beyond the limited number of strong well-established groups, extending out to a much larger community. Dr. Stiavelli will talk about recent discoveries in the search for the most distant galaxy, including the eXtreme Deep Field and the most distant known galaxy. The future contributions by the James Webb Space Telescope to progress in this field will conclude the talk.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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SEPTEMBER 2012 BRIEFING:

NASA's Next Flagship Observatory — The James Webb Space Telescope

Jason Kalirai, Space Telescope Science Institute

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be the most powerful space telescope that astronomers have ever constructed. It is a successor to NASA's Great Observatories, such as the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, and will open doors to worlds inconceivable thus far. In this talk, Dr. Kalirai will first describe several technologies that were specifically created for JWST, and link these advances to the telescope's expected discoveries. He will also discuss several frontier science opportunities for JWST, including the characterization of exoplanet atmospheres, the search for molecular signatures of life, and imaging of the very first galaxies in the Universe.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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AUGUST 2012 BRIEFING:

The Milky Way Galaxy is Heading for a Major Cosmic Collision

Roeland P. van der Marel, Space Telescope Science Institute, Johns Hopkins University

The Andromeda galaxy is our nearest big neighbor in the Universe. It has been known for a century that Andromeda is moving toward the Milky Way (which contains our Sun and Solar System) at about 250,000 miles per hour. However, it was unknown whether the far-future encounter would be a miss, glancing blow, or head-on smashup. This depends on Andromeda's sideways motion on the sky, which had always proved too difficult to measure. We have now used the Hubble Space Telescope to obtain for the first time a measurement of this sideways motion, using extraordinarily precise observations separated by 5-7 years. The results imply that Andromeda will have an almost head-on collision with the Milky Way, which is predicted to happen four billion years from now. Computer simulations show that it will take an additional two billion years after the encounter for the interacting galaxies to completely merge. The Milky Way will get a major makeover, and the Sun will be flung into a new region of our galaxy. But…our Earth and solar system are in no danger of being destroyed.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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JULY 2012 BRIEFING:

Discovering Galaxies: Bursting the Limits of Space and Time

Jean-René Roy, Space Telescope Science Institute/Gemini Observatory

With today's marvelously detailed images and knowledge that there are perhaps a hundred billion galaxies throughout the universe, it is easy to forget that there was a time, only a century ago, when we knew of only one galaxy. The key findings in the history of the discovery of galaxies make a complex story. It is, for example, easier to discuss how things were found than who was the exact discoverer. Dr. Roy will discuss how finding and understanding galaxies has been fundamental in establishing properties of our universe, such as its origin, age, size and future.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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JUNE 2012 BRIEFING:

The Tarantula Nebula: Birthplace of Giants and Dwarfs

Elena Sabbi, Space Telescope Science Institute/European Space Agency

The Tarantula Nebula is the most famous region of star formation in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy. It is the closest extragalactic giant HII region, covering an area of roughly 425,000 light years, comparable in size to the giant star forming regions observed in distant galaxies, such as the Antennae. It is by far the most luminous and massive known star-forming region in the local group of galaxies; its central cluster 30 Doradus alone contains more than 100,000 stars, with masses ranging from 1/10 to 300 times the mass of our sun, emitting 500 times more ionizing photons than the Orion Nebula. We look at the Tarantula Nebula to understand how stars form, to characterize the complex early phase of star cluster evolution, and to learn the complex and delicate interplay between high and low mass stars. This talk will discuss why star formation in 30 Doradus is taking place under conditions that are closer to those found in galaxies at high redshift (when the universe was only few billion years old) than in our own galaxy, and how we can use 30 Doradus as a key to decipher the light that comes from the distant universe.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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MAY 2012 BRIEFING:

The 2012 Transit of Venus - A Cosmologist Prepares

Susana E. Deustua, Space Telescope Science Institute

A rare astronomical event will occur on 5 June 2012 (in the US), when Venus will cross directly between the Earth and the Sun. The last time we saw a transit of Venus was in June 2004; the previous transit occurred in 1882. Scientific observations of the Venus transits in the 1800s provided unique opportunities to improve measurements of Venus orbit and calculate the astronomical unit; now these transits serve as preparation for observations of transiting planets in other systems. In this briefing Dr. Deustua will talk about these and other observations of Venus, including a proposal to use the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the solar light reflected on the Moon during the Venus transit. Dr. Deustua will also explain how to help your museum visitors prepare for viewing this years last-in-a-lifetime event. [The next pair of transits will not be observable from Earth for 105 years, the first in December 2117, with the second of the pair occurring in December 2125.]

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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     Slide Presentation: PDF Format (3.2 MB)     PPT Format (8.7 MB)    PPTX Format (6.4 MB)

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APRIL 2012 BRIEFING:

Interstellar Space: Not as Empty as you Might Think

Andrew Fox, Space Telescope Science Institute

Interstellar space is far emptier than the best vacuum produced anywhere on Earth. However, it is not completely empty - it is filled with diffuse gas, nebulae, and dust. This presentation will give an overview of interstellar matter - how it is detected, how it affects the light passing through it, and how it influences the life cycle of galaxies. Many Hubble Space Telescope images of the various types of nebulae will be included.

Telecon and Presentation Materials will be available at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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     Slide Presentation: PDF Format (2.1 MB)     PPT Format (5.9 MB)    PPTX Format (5.9 MB)

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MARCH 2012 BRIEFING:

The History of Light: How Stars Formed in Galaxies

Kai Gerhard Noeske, Space Telescope Science Institute/European Space Agency

Stars are born and live in galaxies, large islands of light where the conditions necessary for the formation of stars are met. With the help of large telescopes on Earth and in space, and supercomputer simulations, astronomers are reconstructing the history of stars and galaxies: how and when did Dark Matter, gravity and gas combine to form the first galaxies? Since then, how have galaxies created the conditions that allow stars to form, and thereby given rise to the universe filled with light and complex chemistry that we know today?

The Hubble Space Telescope continues to be crucial in helping us understand how stars formed from more than 12 billion years in the past to the present day. It will take future observations with the James Webb Space Telescope to reach even further back in time and unlock the moment when the lights first turned on.

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DECEMBER 2011 BRIEFING:

Top Five Lessons Learned from the Colliding Antennae Galaxies

Brad Whitmore, Space Telescope Science Institute

The Antennae galaxies are the prototypical colliding galaxies. They play a central role in a number of fundamentally important astronomical themes, from the importance of merging galaxies, to the buildup of all galaxies, to how star formation progresses in the universe. Dr. Brad Whitmore will present a list of "Top Five Lessons" that we've learned from the Antennae. He will also provide a short demonstration of the Hubble Legacy Archive, showing how to quickly find color images of dozens of colliding galaxies you've never seen.

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AUGUST 2011 BRIEFING:

Hubble Does Double-Duty Science: Finding Planets and Characterizing Stellar Flares in an Old Stellar Population

Rachel Osten, Space Telescope Science Institute

As astronomers discover planets around more stars, the influence a star has on its planet becomes a more interesting question to examine. Flares, the sudden release of energy and matter from a stellar atmosphere, are a fact of life for solar-like stars. Flares are known to occur more frequently in certain kinds of stars, notably young stars. Astronomers generally assume that there is a decreasing number of flares in older stars, but this has never been studied in a systematic way. Dr. Osten will describe the results of an archival investigation of Hubble data, originally designed to find transiting planets in the Galactic bulge, and repurposed to investigate flaring stars at old ages. She will discuss the nature of the flares, and compare them to solar flares and flares on stars in the solar neighborhood. She will then discuss the nature of the flaring stars and what impact this finding may have on planetary habitability.

Telecon and Presentation Materials at the NASA Museum Alliance (password required)

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APRIL 2011 BRIEFING:

Studying the First Galaxies with the Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescopes

Massimo Stiavelli, Space Telescope Science Institute

The Hubble Space Telescope acquired enhanced near-infrared capabilities with the installation of the Wide Field Camera 3 during Servicing Mission 4. This instrument has allowed us to identify many galaxies at redshift 7 and 8. Recently, we have tentatively identified a galaxy at redshift 10 which represents the new redshift record: the most distant object known. These discoveries are important to explore the Cosmic Dark Ages, the epoch in the Universe when the first galaxies formed and Hydrogen was reionized. Massimo will describe the Hubble discoveries and discuss their impact, then discuss what we expect the James Webb Space Telescope to be able to do in this field of research.

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FEBRUARY 2011 BRIEFING:

The Hubble Heritage Project: Bridging Science and Aesthetics

Lisa Frattare and Keith Noll, Space Telescope Science Institute

The Hubble Heritage Project has been a significant source of Hubble imagery for over a decade, and aims to build a bridge between the endeavors of scientists and the public. Begun in 1998, the project's main objective is to deliver Hubble images selected and processed with aesthetics playing as important a role as scientific utility. Our primary product is a compelling monthly photo released along with supplemental material on the Hubble Heritage website (http://heritage.stsci.edu/ ). Learn how the team selects and observes targets, and even augments science data in the vast Hubble archive, to create some of the most appealing astronomical images ever seen.

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DECEMBER 2010 BRIEFING:

How Do Galaxies Get Their Gas?

Jason Tumlinson, Space Telescope Science Institute

How do galaxies of all types acquire the gas with which they form stars? This is one of the major unanswered questions in modern astrophysics. The flows of gas from the intergalactic medium (IGM) into galaxies, and back out again in "galactic superwinds", probably help determine galaxy properties such as mass in stars, colors, and morphology. Yet these processes are essentially invisible in optical light, so we must study them using the ultraviolet eyes that the Hubble Space Telescope provides. This talk will present late-breaking results from HST's new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, and survey the intellectual development of this field over 60 years.

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NOVEMBER 2010 BRIEFING:

Hubble Observations of the Ghosts of Dead Stars

Bill Blair, Johns Hopkins University

Many people consider a supernova explosion the end of a star's life; in reality, this event is nothing more than a "phase transition" as the energy and remains of the star expand outward, forming what is known as a supernova remnant. These intriguing, often ghostly-appearing nebulae continue the ongoing process of enriching and energizing the interstellar medium, and can even trigger new stars to form in the surrounding regions of space. Hubble and other telescope observations have provided new insights into the physical processes occurring in these interstellar laboratories, allowing detailed studies of nearby objects in our Galaxy and even permitting us to see and study supernova remnants in distant galaxies. The talk provides some examples of both of these results and highlights some things we have learned.

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OCTOBER 2010 BRIEFING:

Debris Disks and the Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems

Christine Chen, Space Telescope Science Institute

Our solar system today contains terrestrial planets, an asteroid belt, giant planets, and a Kuiper Belt; however, observations of its architecture and of old terrestrial planet surfaces suggest that it was dynamically rearranged at the end stages of formation. The past two decades have seen the discovery of hundreds of extra-solar giant planets in planetary systems with architectures vastly different from our own. Currently, it is believed that these planetary systems generally experience the same formation and evolutionary processes, although the average history of planetary systems and the range of possible outcomes remain largely unconstrained by observations. Dr. Chen discusses how debris disks can be used as a tool to explore the diversity of planetary architectures and to provide insight into how planetary systems form and evolve.

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JULY 2010 BRIEFING:

Star Formation in the Milky Way

Tracy Beck, Space Telescope Science Institute

The process of star formation is commonplace throughout our Milky Way Galaxy, and star-forming regions are diverse and complex places. In the Milky Way, stars form in dense cluster environments of OB Associations, such as the Orion Nebula Cluster, and in low stellar density regions where high mass star formation is entirely absent, as seen in the Taurus association. Although these environments differ in their overall properties, the general process of sun-like star formation from dense clusters to loose associations appears to be similar. In this presentation, Tracy will discuss some of the diverse regions of star formation in the Milky Way galaxy. She will also present how our knowledge of star formation has evolved in time, how the Hubble Space Telescope has made a profound impact in this field, and how JWST will continue to expand our knowledge in new directions.

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JUNE 2010 BRIEFING:

Globular Clusters: HST Breathes New Life into Old Fossils

Jay Anderson, Space Telescope Science Institute

Globular clusters were once at the forefront of astronomy research. The fact that all the stars in a cluster are the same age and at the same distance made them ideal stellar "laboratories" where we could learn about stellar evolution, the ages of stars, and the distances between objects in our galaxy and its neighbors. The understanding we gleaned from these laboratories made it possible to study many of the current "hot" topics in astronomy, such as star formation, stellar populations in galaxies, and galaxy evolution. In recent years the Hubble Space Telescope has shown that globular clusters are not as simple as we once thought; we still have a lot to learn about how stars form, how galaxies form, and maybe even what circumstances might give rise to massive black holes. Jay Anderson will give an overview of some of the exciting new discoveries HST is helping us make in the field of globular clusters.

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MAY 2010 BRIEFING:

20 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope

Frank Summers, Space Telescope Science Institute

Launched in April 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was the first of NASA's Great Observatories. That fact, however, does not make it an old telescope. Servicing missions by space shuttle astronauts have renewed Hubble's instrumentation and helped keep it at the forefront of astronomical research. Over two decades of orbiting observations, it has achieved a remarkable record of both scientific discovery and visual splendor. Hubble images have moved beyond the academic community to become synonymous with the beauty of the universe in the public's mind. Join us, on Hubble's twentieth anniversary, for a look at the history, imagery, and significance of this scientific and cultural icon.

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MARCH 2010 BRIEFING:

The Grand Tour of Exoplanets and Our Search for Earth-like Planets

Daniel Apai, Space Telescope Science Institute

The past decade brought about exciting discoveries of hundreds of extrasolar planets, many with exotic and surprising properties. Follow-up measurements with a variety of telescopes allow the exploration of the physical and chemical properties of these planets, including temperature, orbits, atmospheric properties, bulk composition as well as their formation history and their subsequent evolution. In this talk Daniel Apai will provide an overview of the diversity of extrasolar planets by visiting some of the most interesting and most exotic exoplanetary systems, from pulsar planets through hot jupiters to super-earths ocean worlds.

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FEBRUARY 2010 BRIEFING:

Magnifying the Past: Galaxy Clusters and Gravitational Lensing

Ray Lucas, Space Telescope Science Institute

Gravitational lensing is a consequence of Einstein's general relativity in which mass warps space, and light traversing this space curves as if passing through a lens. The lensing acts as Nature's telescope, magnifying more distant objects, though also distorting their shapes. Such observations provide valuable clues not only to the nature and structure of these objects, but also to the structure and amount of the dark matter in the gravitational lens. This talk will discuss the role of massive galaxy clusters in gravitational lensing, and especially some of those that have benefited from the wide-area, high-resolution imaging provided by HST and its cameras.

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JANUARY 2010 BRIEFING:

Science, Data, and Art: Making "IMAX - Hubble 3D"

Frank Summers, Space Telescope Science Institute

Opening in spring 2010, the IMAX film "Hubble 3D" features astonishing on-orbit coverage of the telescope's final repair mission. The challenges and successes of building, launching, and maintaining Hubble are chronicled, featuring space footage shot by shuttle astronauts during servicing missions. The film also includes several segments on Hubble observations that were transformed into high resolution stereo. Dr. Summers will explain how images of Omega Centauri, the Orion Nebula, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, and more were scientifically and artistically processed to make the awe-inspiring sequences in the film.

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OCTOBER 2009 BRIEFING:

A Behind-the-Scenes Perspective on Hubble Servicing, Calibrations, and "First Light"

Max Mutchler, Space Telescope Science Institute

The riskiest part of the recent Hubble servicing mission was the repair of the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Since 1998, Max Mutchler has been a member of the ACS team at STScI, where he has been engaged in calibrations, designing observing strategies, and analyzing images. He was involved with the first test images taken minutes after the astronauts completed the ACS repairs, and is often the first person to glimpse the raw images beamed down from Hubble. Max will share his perspective on the exciting events surrounding Servicing Mission 4, and will help explain why it takes months to release the first new images!

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SEPTEMBER 2009 BRIEFING:

Hubble - Back in Business and Better Than Ever

Frank Summers, Space Telescope Science Institute

In May 2009, the astronauts of STS-125 visited the Hubble Space Telescope for Servicing Mission 4. This was the most ambitious servicing ever attempted, and they completed every task on the "to do" list. Yet the real questions could only be answered afterward. How would the new instruments perform? Would the repairs recover the older instrumentsॆआ full capabilities? How would Hubble perform with its upgraded batteries, gyros, insulation, and more?

The answers are now at hand. After months of Servicing Mission Observatory Verification, we can now tell and show the capabilities of the refurbished Hubble Space Telescope. Following the NASA press conference at 11am EDT on Sept 9th, this briefing will go into detail about the status of the instruments, the telescope, and its magnificent views of the universe.

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AUGUST 2009 BRIEFING:

The Search for Other Earths

Ray Villard, Space Telescope Science Institute

Over the past fourteen years astronomers have discovered over 350 planets orbiting other stars. Nearly all of these worlds are gas giants like Jupiter. A few are ॆअअॆअSuper-Earthsॆअअॆअ that could be rocky or even have oceans. How close are we to identifying whether earthlike planets are common in our galaxy? And, how long after that will we be able to determine if these earthlike planets harbor life? This presentation will review where we stand in our knowledge of exoplanets, and take a look at the space telescopes that will be needed to search for life around other stars.

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JULY 2009 BRIEFING:

Studying the First Galaxies with the Hubble and Webb Space Telescopes

Massimo Stiavelli, Space Telescope Science Institute

Dr. Massimo Stiavelli will explore what is known about the first galaxies in the context of the Epoch of Reionization -- the era in the early Universe when all Hydrogen was reionized by a yet partly unidentified population of galaxies. He will describe what has been learned about this population of galaxies thanks to the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, and what we expect to learn with future observations to be carried out with the newly installed Hubble Wide Field Camera 3. Finally, he will consider what the James Webb Space Telescope will be able to contribute to the study of the first galaxies, and will provide a short status update on JWST.

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JUNE 2009 BRIEFING:

Diamonds in the Rough: Searching for the Oldest Stars in the Galaxy

Jason Kalirai, Space Telescope Science Institute

The stars that light up our night skies are balls of gas with nuclear furnaces in their cores. These brilliant objects have been gazed upon by humankind for centuries, and much of astronomy has historically represented a quest to understand the nature of these shining beacons. It is now well understood that, over time, most stars slowly deplete their fuel by converting the hydrogen in their cores into helium, and therefore cease nuclear burning. The first generation stars that formed in the Universe completed this process billions of years ago, and are now invisible to our eyes as burnt out stellar cinders.

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MAY 2009 BRIEFING:

The Impact of the Hubble Space Telescope: Outreach, Education, and Culture

Mario Livio, Space Telescope Science Institute

The final servicing mission to Hubble has been, in the words of astronaut John Grunsfeld, ॆआa tour de force of tools and human ingenuityॆआ. Scientists will spend the next several months calibrating and checking out the new and refurbished instruments.

In anticipation of a telescope with new and expanded capabilities, Dr. Livio will review the impact that the Hubble Space Telescope has already had in areas other than pure science. He will discuss Hubble news results, the impact of education products (both formal and informal), and the impact of online education products. He will also show how Hubble results have penetrated into human culture in general. Finally, he will discuss a unique outreach event that related the Hubble to art.

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APRIL 2009 BRIEFING:

Return to Hubble: Servicing Mission 4

Frank Summers, Space Telescope Science Institute

The final servicing mission to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is scheduled for May 12, 2009. There are three main goals for this complex mission. The first is to enhance the observatory by the addition of two new instruments. The second is to restore the existing scientific capability through in-situ repairs of STIS and ACS, and the third is to ensure life expectancy for at least five more years. This will be the most challenging mission to Hubble that NASA has ever attempted.

Frank Summers will present what museum and planetarium personnel need to know in order to inform the public and answer their questions about Hubble, its history, and Servicing Mission 4.

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JUNE 2008 BRIEFING:

Black Holes: Gravity's Relentless Pull

Roeland van der Marel, Space Telescope Science Institute

Black holes are one of the most fascinating topics in modern physics and astronomy. Dr. van der Marel is both an expert on the topic and the scientist behind a black hole website that garnered the Pirelli Internetional Award for Multimedia Science Communication. This briefing explores the wealth of information and interactive tools of the website that can be used for either quick exploration or in-depth study. Both the recent advances in understanding black holes as well as the main outstanding questions is highlighted.

Instead of a traditional slide presentation, this briefing will use the website itself: Black Holes  Please note that the website requires Flash, which most browsers already have installed. If not, you can download it free at this website: Adobe Flash Player

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MAY 2008 BRIEFING:

The XO Search for Transiting Planets

Peter McCullough, Space Telescope Science Institute

Detecting planets around other stars is difficult, time-consuming, and data-intensive. It is paramount in such endeavors to maximize the amount of work that can be done by computers and automated equipment, and bring in the astronomers only once the potential planetary needles have been identified within the stellar haystack. One search method relies on the geometry of planet orbits, noting that a small percentage of extrasolar planets will pass directly in front of their stars as seen from Earth. Dr. McCullough is the head of a project to discover Jupiter-sized extrasolar planets by searching for the small decrease in a star's light during such a transit event. He will describe an ambitious project that searches tens of thousands of stars every month using autonomous equipment at the 10,000-foot Haleakala summit on Maui.

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APRIL 2008 BRIEFING:

Wide-Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2): The Camera That Saved Hubble

John Trauger, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Hubble's "workhorse" instrument — the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) — has captured most of the famous Hubble pictures. WFPC2 is the telescope's main camera; specially designed small mirrors within WFPC2 correct for Hubble's spherical aberration. Scientists worldwide cheered in 1993 when WFPC2 was installed during the first servicing mission and brought the universe into sharp focus. John will talk about designing WFPC2, recall some of its greatest hits (for example, the "Pillars of Creation"), and look forward to seeing WFPC2 again when it returns to Earth onboard STS-125 later this year.

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MARCH 2008 BRIEFING:

Seeing Hubble's Universe: Making Pictures from Data

Zolt Levay , Space Telescope Science Institute

Hubble's view of the universe, as the public sees it, is a visually compelling portrait. Yet these images originate not for artistic reasons, but for science research. Zolt Levay is perhaps the person most responsible for shaping the public perception of Hubble imagery, and thereby much of their opinions of astronomy.  In this briefing, he will discuss the process of reconstructing color photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope's science data.  The detailed and involved procedures require technical  as well as aesthetic choices and rely on techniques from art and photography to produce visually appealing pictures without sacrificing scientific validity.

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FEBRUARY 2008 BRIEFING:

The Evolution of Galaxies over Cosmic Time

Harry Ferguson, Space Telescope Science Institute

Dr. Harry Ferguson, Head of Science at the Space Telescope Science Institute, has been involved in several deep surveys of galaxies with the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble Deep Field, GOODS, COSMOS, and Ultra Deep Field have provided unprecedented detail of galaxies stretching to more than 12 billion light-years distant in space, and thus more than 12 billion years in time. These collections of observations allows us to study the growth and development of galaxies from the proto-galactic star clumps through to fully formed majestic spirals and ellipticals. Dr. Ferguson will review some of the highlights of these findings.

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DECEMBER 2007 BRIEFING:

James Webb Space Telescope

Knox Long, Space Telescope Science Institute

Join Dr. Knox Long of the Space Telescope Science Institute to learn about the James Webb Space Telescope now under construction. JWST will orbit beyond the Moon to search for the first stars, to identify how galaxies assemble their glorious spiral and elliptical structures, and to understand more fully the processes that give birth to stars and planets.

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     JWST Website at STScI

NOVEMBER 2007 BRIEFING:

Astrophysics Enabled by the Return to the Moon

Mario Livio, Space Telescope Science Institute

In November 2006, the Space Telescope Science Institute hosted a forward-looking conference on the compatabilities and synergies between astronomical research and the current plans for manned space missions. Dr. Livio, chair of the organizing committee for that conference, will discuss its most important results. He will identify important astrophysical observations that can be either carried out from the lunar surface or that will be enabled by the Vision for Space Exploration. 

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     Astophysics Enabled by the Return to the Moon  Conference Website

JUNE 2007 BRIEFING:

Science with Hubble's New Instruments

Kenneth Sembach, Space Telescope Science Institute

Two new Hubble science instruments are scheduled to be installed during the final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in fall 2008. The Wide Field Camera 3 and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph will provide views of the Universe with greater clarity and depth than ever before. This talk will describe the key science topics addressed by the two new instruments. Dr. Kenneth Sembach is the Hubble Project Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute.

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     Hubble Servicing Mission 4 on the NASA Website

MAY 2007 BRIEFING:

HST Servicing Mission 4 - Repairs

Chris Blades, Space Telescope Science Institute, Project Scientist for SM4

The next and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope is currently scheduled for fall 2008. There are three main goals for this complex mission. The first is to enhance the Observatory by the addition of two new instruments. The second is to restore the existing scientific capability through in-situ repairs of STIS and ACS, and the third is to ensure life expectancy to 2013. This is likely to be the most challenging mission to Hubble that NASA has ever attempted. Chris Blades is the Project Scientist for SM4 at the Space Telescope Science Institute and during this briefing he will discuss the current situation with the Hubble telescope and describe the plans for SM4.

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