Robert Shane Kimbrough Visits the Atlanta Braves

Women in Engineering campers pose with Astronaut Shane Kimbrough on the Georgia Tech campusAstronaut Shane Kimbrough speaks with a group of Aviation Camp kids at the Fernbank Science CenterAstronaut Shane Kimbrough presents a picture of Atlanta taken from space to Braves General Manager Frank WrenNASA astronaut Robert Shane Kimbrough had two dreams growing up as a child; to be an astronaut and to play baseball. He grew up in the small town of Smyrna, Ga., just outside of Atlanta. Recently Kimbrough’s two passions came together while making a special appearance in his native Georgia. He spoke to the people of Atlanta about being an astronaut and was given the opportunity to participate in pregame activities for an Atlanta Braves’ game.

Kimbrough’s appearance in Atlanta marked the second stop of NASA’s Hometown Hero 2009 campaign. He is one of several astronauts returning to their home regions to spread knowledge about the importance of continuing space exploration. At each stop, the astronauts participate in pregame activities at a Major League Baseball game and do community outreach about NASA, the International Space Station, and why space exploration is so vital to the nation.

Kimbrough started his trip with an event-filled afternoon at the Fernbank Science Center. Sporting his blue flight suit, he did media interviews and presented his post-flight presentation to a group of aviation camp kids and the public. Kimbrough talked about the importance of education and raising the next generation’s interest in science and space exploration. The evening wrapped up with a free planetarium show for all who attended.

“It was a pleasure to host Lt. Col. Kimbrough at the Fernbank Science Center,” said Fernbank Science Center Director Doug Hrabe. “The groups were very appreciative of the time that he shared with them.”

The trip continued early next morning with three live interviews. Kimbrough stopped by WXIA-TV to talk with Karyn Greer about his recent mission, STS-126, and his time onboard the space station, where he performed two space walks. Kimbrough also had a radio interview with Kevin and Taylor in the Morning from 104.7 “The Fish.” He discussed the 10-year anniversary of the space station and how there are significant benefits derived from research conducted in space.

“All the things we do up there are to help people on Earth,” Kimbrough said. “We don’t do it for our sake or NASA’s sake—it’s to go up there and figure out how to live better on Earth.”

His last stop of the morning was at WAGA-TV. Kimbrough visited with Suchita Vadlamani. He recounted his days of growing up in Georgia and why he really became an astronaut.

“What first sparked your imagination and inspired you to be an astronaut?” Vadlamani asked.

“People my age were watching men walk on the moon, and that’s really what sparked the whole thing,” Kimbrough said.

After the early morning interviews, Kimbrough headed to Georgia Tech, where he made a post-flight presentation and signed autographs for students and summer campers. Kimbrough received a Master of Science degree in operations research from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1998, so his visit was somewhat of a welcome home party.

Kimbrough ended his two-day trip with a major strike! He participated in numerous pregame activities at the Atlanta Braves versus Boston Red Sox game. He presented the general manager with a special photo taken from the space station. Later, Kimbrough and his son Zack also gave the “Play ball” call to start the game. But his journey didn’t end there. He signed several autographs and gave a live interview in the Braves’ plaza.

In the end, Kimbrough enjoyed his Hometown Heroes trip and thought the diversity of his events helped educate people about NASA and its goals.

“I had a chance to speak to kids, college students, the public and athletes, which is a very broad spectrum of folks,” Kimbrough said. “I think we did a lot of good for NASA overall.”

For more information about the NASA Hometown Heroes 2009 campaign, visit:

NASA to Provide Web Updates on Objects Approaching Earth

how Earth may have appeared during the Late Heavy BombardmentNASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is introducing a new Web site that will provide a centralized resource for information on near-Earth objects – those asteroids and comets that can approach Earth. The "Asteroid Watch" site also contains links for the interested public to sign up for NASA's new asteroid widget and Twitter account.

"Most people have a fascination with near-Earth objects," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. "And I have to agree with them. I have studied them for over three decades and I find them to be scientifically fascinating, and a few are potentially hazardous to Earth. The goal of our Web site is to provide the public with the most up-to-date and accurate information on these intriguing objects."

The new Asteroid Watch site is online at .

It provides information on NASA's missions to study comets, asteroids and near-Earth objects, and also provides the basic facts and the very latest in science and research on these objects. News about near-Earth object discoveries and Earth flybys will be available and made accessible on the site via a downloadable widget and RSS feed. And for those who want to learn about their space rocks on the go, a Twitter feed is offered. "Asteroid Watch" also contains a link to JPL's more technical Near-Earth Objects Web site, where many scientists and researchers studying near-Earth objects go for information.

"This innovative new Web application gives the public an unprecedented look at what's going on in near-Earth space," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Objects Observation program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA supports surveys that detect and track asteroids and comets passing close to Earth. The Near-Earth Object Observation Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," also plots the orbits of these objects to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

New Spin On Saturn's Rotation

Cassini's view of SaturnNew meteorological data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft indicates the value for Saturn's rotation period could be more than 5 minutes shorter than previously believed - and that Saturn is more like its larger neighbor Jupiter than previously considered. The rate at which Saturn spins provides important data for planetary scientists interested in the ringed world. Obtaining an accurate fix on that number is critical to enhancing scientist's understanding of the planet's evolution, formation and meteorology. The report on this finding, led by Cassini scientist Peter Read of Oxford University, England, is published in the July 30 issue of the journal Nature.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. JPL manages the mission for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

More information about the Cassini mission is available at or .

Australia gets $72 million for the GMT

The Australian government has announced that it will provide $88.4 million AUD ($72.4 million USD) to help fund the revolutionary 25-meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) to be sited at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile's high-altitude Atacama Desert. This brings the funding that has been raised to date to $200 million out of approximately $700 million total needed to complete construction, which is scheduled for 2019.

The GMT will be built and operated by a consortium of institutions from the United States, South Korea, and Australia. Larger and more powerful than any previous optical telescope, it will be up to 100 times more sensitive than current ground-based telescopes, and will produce images 10 times sharper than those from the Hubble Space Telescope.

GMTO Corporation Board Chairperson and Carnegie Observatories director, Wendy Freedman said, "We are delighted at the success of our Australian colleagues. This funding will give Australian astronomers access to about 10% of the time on the GMT, and assure that they remain at the forefront of astronomical research. It provides another strong boost of forward momentum for the project, one of many it has received of late."

Harvey Butcher, Director of the Australian National University Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Mount Stromlo Observatory said, "Involvement in GMT will strongly advance Australia's contributions to science and innovation and provide a focus for attracting the next generation of scientists and engineers."

"Australia's action strengthens the GMTO and will help us build the telescope we dream of in Chile. To achieve this dream takes money, talent, and grit. The Australians are bringing all three," said Patrick McCarthy, director of the GMTO.

The GMT will combine seven 8.4-meter primary mirror segments resulting in an equivalent 24.5-meter telescope. It will be used to explore currently unanswered questions about the nature of dark matter and dark energy, the origin of the first stars and first galaxies, and the mysteries of star formation, galaxy evolution, and black hole growth. The GMT will also play a key role in the detection and imaging of planets around nearby stars.

NASA Honors Apollo Astronaut Al Worden with Moon Rock

NASA will honor Apollo astronaut Al Worden with the presentation of an Ambassador of Exploration Award for his contributions to the U.S. space program.

Worden will receive the award during a ceremony Thursday, July 30, at 4 p.m. EDT. The ceremony will be held at the Apollo Saturn V Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, where the moon rock will be displayed.

Reporters interested in covering the ceremony should contact Andrea Farmer at 321-449-4318 or Jillian McRae at 321-449-4273.

NASA is giving the Ambassador of Exploration Award to the first generation of explorers in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs for realizing America's goal of going to the moon. The award is a moon rock encased in Lucite, mounted for public display. The rock is part of the 842 pounds of lunar samples collected during six Apollo expeditions from 1969 to 1972. Those astronauts who receive the award will then present the award to a museum of their choice, where the moon rock will be placed for public display.

Worden served as command module pilot for the Apollo 15 mission, which set several moon records for NASA, including the longest lunar surface stay time, the longest lunar extravehicular activity and the first use of a lunar roving vehicle. Worden spent 38 minutes in a spacewalk outside the command module and logged a total of 295 hours, 11 minutes in space during the mission.

Worden was born in Jackson, Mich. He received a bachelor of military science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1955, and master of science degrees in astronautical and aeronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1963.

For more biographical information about Worden, visit:

NASA Television will broadcast a Video File of the event. For NASA TV streaming video, schedules and downlink information, visit:

For more information about the Apollo Saturn V Center, visit:

For information about and pictures of the NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award, visit:

Japanese Experiment Module - Exposed Facility

This image shows the Japanese Experiment Module - Exposed Facility as it looks from inside Kibo. The Japanese Experiment Module, or JEM, called Kibo -- which means "hope" in Japanese -- is Japan's first human space facility and enhances the unique research capabilities of the International Space Station. Experiments in Kibo focus on space medicine, biology, Earth observations, material production, biotechnology and communications research. Kibo experiments and systems are operated from the Mission Control Room at the Space Station Operations Facility, or SSOF, at Tsukuba Space Center in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, just north of Tokyo.

Nasa EAA AirVenture : An Aviator's Dream World

Inflatable exhibits of a lunar habitat concept and an Orion Crew capsuleAviation enthusiasts seek out certain destinations. There are Paris and Farnborough for the big international crowd, Kill Devil Hills, N.C. for the historians and Oshkosh, Wisc., for those who crave a look at aircraft that are a little different.

For a week every summer a small airfield in central Wisconsin is an aviator's dream world. It's been that way for more than half a century, since what is now called EAA AirVenture started as a way to celebrate men and women who fly experimental aircraft.

It's grown so much since 1953 that Wittman Regional Airport, the home of the Experimental Aircraft Association, becomes the busiest airport in the country for that week according to the Federal Aviation Administration. That's pretty amazing since it normally doesn't even have scheduled airline service.

Matt Shezifi of Livermore, Calif., tries out a demonstration that shows how astronauts use tools in space.Among the aircraft expected to fly into the airfield this year will be a research aircraft from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. A NASA Gulfstream III aircraft will land at EAA AirVenture and be parked for public viewing at Aeroshell Square, perhaps not far from a huge Airbus 380 or Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo spacecraft. The G-III serves as multi-role testbed for a variety of flight research experiments. The aircraft's pilot will be available to answer questions.

And they aren't the only NASA researchers and engineers who will talk to members of the public at the air show about everything from uncrewed air vehicles, past and future moon missions to how the space shuttle flies.

This year marks a special anniversary for NASA and the rest of the world — 40 years since humans first walked on the moon. To commemorate the occasion visitors to EAA AirVenture will be able to see a piece of the lunar surface in person. A moon rock picked up by astronaut Edgar Mitchell in 1971 during the Apollo XIV mission is a star attraction at the NASA pavilion.

This year we're celebrating not only our historic landing on the moon 40 years ago, but looking forward to the next generation of moon missions," said Jim Hull, NASA exhibits manager. "Last month we launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. It's circling the moon right now, transmitting images. Then this fall the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite will impact the moon looking for water ice."

The Oshkosh exhibit reflects the country's plans to return to the moon. Outside the building are two huge inflatables that represent a lunar habitat concept and the Orion crew capsule. Inside visitors can learn more about robotic moon missions and the systems that will rocket astronauts to the lunar surface from engineers from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

From the moon, air show participants are able to move onto Mars and a full-scale replica of one of the Mars Exploration Rovers in front of a three-dimensional Martian landscape.

No NASA presentation at an air show is complete without a look at NASA's contributions to aeronautics. Not only do exhibits feature a number of NASA-developed aviation technologies that are now common in airplanes, a special education area allows youngsters to make and take their own ring wing gliders and offer other hands-on activities.

But by far one of the most popular stops at the NASA building is the area known as the NASA craftsmen. Technicians from NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Langley Research center in Hampton, Va., show off some of the models and tools researchers use to advance aerospace design.

Warmed Up and Ready to Go

An infrared view of the choppy star-making cloud called M17, or the Swan nebula.NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has put its infrared eyes back on the sky to observe the cold and dusty universe. The telescope ran out of liquid coolant on May 15, 2009, after more than five-and-a-half years of observations. Two of its infrared channels are working at full capacity at the observatory's new "warm" temperature of approximately 30 Kelvin (minus 406 degrees Fahrenheit) -- still quite chilly by our Earthly standards.

Engineers and scientists have been busy recalibrating the telescope and making preparations for Spitzer's new era of science. Routine science operations begin today, July 27, 2009. More information about the warm mission can be found at

Cargo Carrier Returned to Endeavour's Payload Bay

In yet another deft handoff maneuver, the space shuttle robotic arm grabbed the Japanese Exposed Section cargo carrier from the space station robotic arm. Endeavour Commander Mark Polansky and Mission Specialist Julie Payette then used the shuttle arm to place the cargo carrier back into the shuttle payload bay.

The Exposed Section was launched with two science experiments and a communication system that were transferred to the Kibo Exposed Facility earlier in the mission.

Space Shuttle Mission: STS-127

S127-E-008608: STS-127 and Expedition 20 crews
Crews Focus on Robotics, Spacewalk Preparations

Sunday morning, the space shuttle robotic arm grabbed the Japanese Exposed Section cargo carrier from the International Space Station's robotic arm and carefully placed the cargo carrier back into Endeavour’s payload bay bringing to close this mission’s robotics work on the space station’s new porch.

The 13 crew members aboard the space station and space shuttle transitioned back to work by tucking the Exposed Section away, hosting a joint crew news conference and studying the new procedures for Monday’s fifth and final spacewalk.

Spacewalkers Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn prepared their spacesuits and tools and reviewed procedures. Monday's spacewalk is expected to run about six and a half hours.

The Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA), which along with a similar Russian system removes carbon dioxide from the station’s atmosphere, is continuing to operate in manual mode. The primary heater tripped a circuit breaker Saturday afternoon, and since then the ground team has been manually operating the backup heater.

› Read more

STS-127 Additional Resources
› Mission Press Kit (6.9 Mb PDF)
› Mission Summary (429 Kb PDF)
› Meet the STS-127 Crew

Veteran Astronaut Pam Melroy Leaves NASA

NASA astronaut Pam Melroy is leaving the agency to take a job in the private sector. Melroy, a retired Air Force colonel, is a veteran of three space shuttle flights and the second woman to command one.

"Pam has performed superbly as an astronaut," said Steve Lindsey, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "She has flown three highly successful space shuttle missions and contributed in several other technical areas during her 14 years of service with the Astronaut Office. Her leadership as the commander of the STS-120 space shuttle mission paved the way to six-person crew operations on the International Space Station."

"As a classmate and a friend, I feel privileged to have served beside her. We wish Pam the best of luck in her new career -- she will be missed," Lindsey added.

Melroy flew on shuttle missions STS-92 in 2000, STS-112 in 2002 and STS-120 in 2007. She served as pilot on her first two flights and commanded the third. She has logged more than 924 hours in space, contributing to the construction of the space station on every mission. She was selected as an astronaut in December 1994.

Melroy made history with Expedition 16 Commander Peggy Whitson in October 2007 when the hatches between the space shuttle and space station were opened. They became the first female spacecraft commanders to lead space shuttle and space station missions concurrently.

For Melroy's complete biography, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

Hubble Space Telescope Captures Rare Jupiter Collision

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the sharpest visible-light picture yet of atmospheric debris from an object that collided with Jupiter on July 19. NASA scientists decided to interrupt the recently refurbished observatory's checkout and calibration to take the image of a new, expanding spot on the giant planet on July 23.


Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, the spot was created when a small comet or asteroid plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated. The only other time such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was 15 years ago after the collision of fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

"Because we believe this magnitude of impact is rare, we are very fortunate to see it with Hubble," said Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Details seen in the Hubble view shows a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere."

The new Hubble images also confirm that a May servicing visit by space shuttle astronauts was a big success.

"This image of the impact on Jupiter is fantastic," said U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. "It tells us that our astronauts and the ground crew at the Goddard Space Flight Center successfully repaired the Hubble telescope. I'm so proud of them and I can't wait to see what's next from Hubble."

For the past several days, Earth-based telescopes have been trained on Jupiter. To capture the unfolding drama 360 million miles away, Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, gave observation time to a team of astronomers led by Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

"Hubble's truly exquisite imaging capability has revealed an astonishing wealth of detail in the impact site," Hammel said. "By combining these images with our ground-based data at other wavelengths, our Hubble data will allow a comprehensive understanding of exactly what is happening to the impact debris."

Simon-Miller estimated the diameter of the impacting object was the size of several football fields. The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded over the Siberian Tunguska River Valley in June 1908.

The image was taken with the Wide Field Camera 3. The new camera, installed by the astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis in May, is not yet fully calibrated. While it is possible to obtain celestial images, the camera's full power has yet to be seen.

"This is just one example of what Hubble's new, state-of-the-art camera can do, thanks to the STS-125 astronauts and the entire Hubble team," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "However, the best is yet to come."

Putting Plankton in Perspective, from Sea to Sky

Animation depicting nearly a decades worth of SeaWiFS ocean chlorophyll concentration and land Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data.
From the time he was 21 and working toward his Ph.D., Mike Behrenfeld has been observing phytoplankton -- floating ocean plants that have a global impact. Observing these tiny plants under a microscope, Behrenfeld discovered early on that how you set up an experiment matters.

Researchers had previously observed that "fat and happy" plankton in a sterile laboratory dish suffer considerably when exposed to ultraviolet radiation. But perform the same experiment while simulating the abundance of real-world stresses that phytoplankton face every day in the ocean, and the impact of ultraviolet radiation is much smaller, Behrenfeld found.

Now a phytoplankton ecologist and physiologist at Oregon State University, Behrenfeld studies phytoplankton in the lab but also makes a point of regularly going out to sea to stay grounded in the "real world."

He also employs a big-picture tool: the view from space.

Behrenfeld's introduction to satellite data came during his tenure at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he learned how space-based instruments can measure ocean color and detect phytoplankton's green pigment.

"That's when I began thinking in earnest about the global aspects of phytoplankton ecology," Behrenfeld said. "I was able to combine physiological knowledge of processes at the cellular level that I learned from the lab with the big picture of looking at global systems from space."

Now, with more than ten years of ocean color data from NASA's Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) instrument, Behrenfeld has developed a new theory about the timing and cause of the North Atlantic Bloom. This annual bloom of phytoplankton spans the entire ocean at northern latitudes, and is responsible for feeding marine birds and mammals, as well as soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Behrenfeld found that the classic understanding of the bloom -- that warm spring temperatures and abundant sunlight drive its onset -- may be mistaken. Instead, satellite data show that the bloom begins in winter, when phytoplankton habitat extends deeper below the ocean surface. Phytoplankton are diluted over a larger habitat volume, decreasing their chance of encountering a predator, allowing the population to grow, and initiating a bloom. Only later, in spring, do favorable growth conditions at the surface contribute to the bloom.

"With space-based tools, we can go back and look at these old paradigms in a new way," Behrenfeld said. "The satellite measurements were the absolute central piece of the work, but their interpretation required background knowledge from the laboratory and field techniques."

Behrenfeld encourages the next generation of young scientists -- whether they are focused on satellite data, computer models, laboratory experiments or optics -- to take a diversified approach to scientific inquiry and to get out into the real world as much as possible.

"Getting away from the computer and simply thinking about things for awhile opens up new questions you want to ask," he said, "and feeds our scientific curiosity about how organisms and natural ecosystems work."

Related Links:

› Earth System Science at 20 Media Briefing: Rethinking What Causes Spring Phytoplankton Blooms
› NASA Satellite Detects Red Glow to Map Global Ocean Plant Health
› Michael Behrenfeld at Oregon State University
› The Ocean Chromatic: SeaWiFS Enters Its Second Decade

Bolden and Garver Visit NASA Langley

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver addressed a standing-room-only crowd in Langley's Reid Conference Center on Wednesday, while another group of employees watched from a quarter-mile away at the Pearl Young Theater.

Bolden spoke for 40 minutes about research, aeronautics, education, space and almost anything else anyone wanted to talk about. The people at Langley Research Center listened intently, and many heard the words of support they were waiting for from their new boss and his deputy. Garver noted that she has special affection for Langley because it is the only NASA center with a woman director. The director, Lesa Roe, introduced the two at the event.

Questions from employees elicited thoughtful, sometimes unexpected answers. It was Bolden's first visit as NASA administrator to the place he repeatedly referred to as the "Mother Center." Several old friends Bolden knew from his 14-year career as a shuttle astronaut were present in the audience.

Bolden remarked in response to one question that while any operation "is always at a crossroads . . . NASA is at a critical crossroads."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver are with a group of pre-service teachers at NASA's Langley Research Center. "My vision is that we will find ways to do a little bit of all of the things that we need to do," he said.

With answers come "challenges," which Bolden said he said he doesn't consider a politically correct synonym for "problems." NASA, he said, is about research. He described a third-grader's drawing that soon will be on his office wall in Washington; it says "We'll never know if we don't go."

"That's why we do what we do," he said. "What we do is research and experimentation. We are a research organization, but we don't do enough R and D, basic research. I'll go down on my hands and knees if I need to, but we have got to find more money for you all to do basic research."

Bolden interrupted building applause in the room and told the audience to wait for action instead of words. "It's easy for me to stand up here and say that," he noted. "You've got to back this stuff up." Bolden also asked for employees' assistance.

"I need your help," he said, "because we're going to find ways to get back to basic research as well as applied research."

NASA, he said, is about research, and Bolden harkened to a child's drawing that soon will be on his office wall in Washington. Lettered on that third-grader's art is "We'll never know if we don't go."

After a questioner offered a possible solution to several project issues, Bolden challenged employees to have the courage of their convictions. He encouraged center directors to support and nurture that courage.

In response to a question on the "10 healthy NASA centers philosophy," Bolden said he has spent time working at Langley as well as NASA's Johnson Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center and Goddard Space Flight Center. Visits to other field centers will come soon.

"You never make an assessment or a judgment about how everything is working until you have a chance to see it," he said. "It appears to be working."

In response to a query about the cost of industry's use of NASA facilities, Bolden said he hoped to convene a summit of the major players in the aerospace industry.

"I want to ask, 'Are we of value to you?' " he said. "And I want to ask, 'Do you respect us as a partner in aeronautical research?' " Bolden sees a role of government as fostering aeronautical research.

Bolden took the job, he said, because President Obama asked him to.

"He [Obama] talked of sitting on his grandfather's shoulders in Hawaii, watching the ships come in with astronauts on them and stuff," Bolden said. "He remembers waving, and in his mind, the astronauts could see him. He says he's never forgotten that, and he feels that kids don't feel that way these days."

The challenge is to get that feeling back. Bolden took a step in that direction Wednesday, stopping to talk with students in DEVELOP, a Science Mission Directorate applied sciences training and development program that extends NASA research to local communities. He later walked unannounced into a classroom of children in the Navigation Center. It was the twelfth NASA administrator, doing his job, answering the president's challenge.

NASA's Spitzer Images Out-of-This-World Galaxy

The NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has imaged a wild creature of the dark -- a coiled galaxy with an eye-like object at its center.

The galaxy, called NGC 1097, is located 50 million light-years away. It is spiral-shaped like our Milky Way, with long, spindly arms of stars. The "eye" at the center of the galaxy is actually a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars. In this color-coded infrared view from Spitzer, the area around the invisible black hole is blue and the ring of stars, white.

The black hole is huge, about 100 million times the mass of our sun, and is feeding off gas and dust along with the occasional unlucky star. Our Milky Way's central black hole is tame by comparison, with a mass of a few million suns.

"The fate of this black hole and others like it is an active area of research," said George Helou, deputy director of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "Some theories hold that the black hole might quiet down and eventually enter a more dormant state like our Milky Way black hole."

The ring around the black hole is bursting with new star formation. An inflow of material toward the central bar of the galaxy is causing the ring to light up with new stars.

"The ring itself is a fascinating object worthy of study because it is forming stars at a very high rate," said Kartik Sheth, an astronomer at NASA's Spitzer Science Center. Sheth and Helou are part of a team that made the observations.

In the Spitzer image, infrared light with shorter wavelengths is blue, while longer-wavelength light is red. The galaxy's red spiral arms and the swirling spokes seen between the arms show dust heated by newborn stars. Older populations of stars scattered through the galaxy are blue. The fuzzy blue dot to the left, which appears to fit snuggly between the arms, is a companion galaxy.

"The companion galaxy that looks as if it's playing peek-a-boo through the larger galaxy could have plunged through, poking a hole," said Helou. "But we don't know this for sure. It could also just happen to be aligned with a gap in the arms."

Other dots in the picture are either nearby stars in our galaxy, or distant galaxies.

This image was taken during Spitzer's "cold mission," which lasted more than five-and-a-half years. The telescope ran out of coolant needed to chill its infrared instruments on May 15, 2009. Two of its infrared channels will still work perfectly during the new "warm mission," which is expected to begin in a week or so, once the observatory has been recalibrated and warms to its new temperature of around 30 Kelvin (about minus 406 degrees Fahrenheit).

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. Spitzer's infrared array camera, which made the observations, was built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The instrument's principal investigator is Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

For more information about Spitzer, visit and .

NASA Celebrates Chandra's 10th Anniversary

Supernova remnant E0102Ten years ago, on July 23, 1999, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched aboard the space shuttle Columbia and deployed into orbit. Chandra has doubled its original five-year mission, ushering in an unprecedented decade of discovery for the high-energy universe.

With its unrivaled ability to create high-resolution X- ray images, Chandra has enabled astronomers to investigate phenomena as diverse as comets, black holes, dark matter and dark energy.

"Chandra's discoveries are truly astonishing and have made dramatic changes to our understanding of the universe and its constituents," said Martin Weisskopf, Chandra project scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The science that has been generated by Chandra -- both on its own and in conjunction with other telescopes in space and on the ground -- has had a widespread, transformative impact on 21st century astrophysics. Chandra has provided the strongest evidence yet that dark matter must exist. It has independently confirmed the existence of dark energy and made spectacular images of titanic explosions produced by matter swirling toward supermassive black holes.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Chandra, three new versions of classic Chandra images will be released during the next three months. These images, the first of which is available Thursday, provide new data and a more complete view of objects that Chandra observed in earlier stages of its mission. The image being released today is of E0102-72, the spectacular remains of an exploded star.

"The Great Observatories program -- of which Chandra is a major part -- shows how astronomers need as many tools as possible to tackle the big questions out there," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NASA's other "Great Observatories" are the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory and Spitzer Space Telescope.

The next image will be released in August to highlight the anniversary of when Chandra opened up for the first time and gathered light on its detectors. The third image will be released during "Chandra's First Decade of Discovery" symposium in Boston, which begins Sept. 22.

"I am extremely proud of the tremendous team of people who worked so hard to make Chandra a success," said Harvey Tananbaum, director of the Chandra X-ray Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. "It has taken partners at NASA, industry and academia to make Chandra the crown jewel of high-energy astrophysics."

Tananbaum and Nobel Prize winner Riccardo Giacconi originally proposed Chandra to NASA in 1976. Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra is in a highly elliptical orbit that takes it almost one third of the way to the moon, and was not designed to be serviced after it was deployed.

Marshall manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center.

A list of Chandra's major scientific highlights is available at:

To view new images form Chandra and learn more about the mission, visit:

Saturnian Moon Shows Evidence of Ammonia

Saturn's moon Enceladus, seen by the Cassini spacecraftData collected during two close flybys of Saturn's moon Enceladus by NASA's Cassini spacecraft add more fuel to the fire about the Saturnian ice world containing sub-surface liquid water. The data collected by Cassini's Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer during Enceladus flybys in July and Oct. 2008, were released in the July 23 issue of the journal Nature. "When Cassini flew through the plume erupting from Enceladus on October 8 of last year, our spectrometer was able to sniff out many complex chemicals, including organic ones, in the vapor and icy particles," said Hunter Waite, the Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer Lead Scientist from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "One of the chemicals definitively identified was ammonia."

On Earth, the presence of ammonia means the potential for sparkling clean floors and counter tops. In space, the presence of ammonia provides strong evidence for the existence of at least some liquid water.

How could ammonia equate to liquid water inside an ice-covered moon in one of the chillier neighborhoods of our solar system? As many a homeowner interested in keeping their abodes spick and span know, ammonia promptly dissolves in water. But what many people do not realize is that ammonia acts as antifreeze, keeping water liquid at lower temperatures than would otherwise be possible. With the presence of ammonia, water can exist in a liquid state to temperatures as low as 176 degrees Kelvin (-143 degrees Fahrenheit).

"Given that temperatures in excess of 180 Kelvin (-136 degrees Fahrenheit) have been measured near the fractures on Enceladus where the jets emanate, we think we have an excellent argument for a liquid water interior," said Waite.

Cassini discovered water vapor and particles spewing from Enceladus in 2005. Since then, scientists have been trying to determine if the plume originates from a liquid source inside the moon or is due to other causes.

"Ammonia is sort of a holy grail for icy volcanism," said William McKinnon, a scientist from Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri. "This is the first time we've found it for sure on an icy satellite of a giant planet. It is probably everywhere in the Saturn system."

Just how much water is contained within Enceladus' icy interior is still up for debate. So far, Cassini has made five flybys of Enceladus, one of the chief targets for Cassini's extended mission. Two close flybys are scheduled for November of this year, and two more close flybys are scheduled for April and May of 2010. Data collected during these future flybys may help settle the debate.

"Where liquid water and organics exist, is there life?" asked Jonathan Lunine a Cassini scientist from the University of Arizona, Tucson. "Such is the case for Earth; what was found on Enceladus bolsters this moon's promise for containing potential habitable environments." The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. JPL manages the mission for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

More information about the Cassini mission is available at or .

A 21st Century-Style Return to the Moon

The three Apollo 11 crew men await pickup by a helicopter from the USS Hornet, prime recovery ship for the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing missionMembers of the 920th Rescue Wing work on a mockup Orion crew exploration vehicle off the coast of Port Canaveral, Fla.It was an extraordinary feat when Apollo engineers designed a spacecraft to go somewhere no human had ever gone before. Especially when that place was the moon - 240,000 miles from Earth. Now forty years after the first moon landing, NASA has turned its attention back to lunar missions, this time planning to stay longer.

The spacecraft to carry future explorers to the moon, the Orion crew exploration vehicle, looks very similar to the Apollo spacecraft. The crew module borrows the familiar conical shape with a curved heatshield, which has proven to be the optimal shape for missions returning from the moon.

Additionally, Orion and Apollo both use the same heat-resistant thermal material, called AVCOAT, to shield the capsules from heat generated by the 25,000 mile-per-hour atmosphere re-entry from missions to the moon.

However, the Orion crew module is one-third larger than the Apollo command module and the inside will be different. Engineers will incorporate advances in technology into the interior and since the plan for missions to the moon is different, different types of systems are being designed also.

When Apollo astronauts visited the moon, they only stayed for a few days at a time, three astronauts traveled to lunar orbit on Apollo, and then only two descended to the moon’s surface.

When America returns to the moon, four astronauts will ride in Orion to lunar orbit and then all of them will move into the Altair lunar lander to go explore the moon. Orion will operate on its own in lunar orbit, standing by for the return trip to Earth.

Orion will start out supporting week-long missions and then will be able to support up to 210-day missions when astronauts eventually live and work at outposts on the moon.

Being able to operate autonomously in lunar orbit will be a key factor in Orion being able to support longer missions. Its systems will operate automatically, with Mission Control watching from Earth, while the crew explores the moon.

By going to the moon for extended periods of time, astronauts will search for resources and learn how to work safely in a harsh environment -- stepping stones to future exploration. The moon also offers many clues about the time when the planets were formed.

To support longer missions, Orion also will have larger tanks to carry the fuel for course adjustments during the trip and will use advanced solar array technology to collect sunlight for conversion into electricity. Apollo used fuel cell technology (as does the space shuttle), which requires oxygen and hydrogen be carried along for the ride. Using solar arrays saves weight that can be used to enhance safety and launch more cargo.

Orion will have more power, too. It will hold six batteries for power storage and will use a 120V DC power distribution system, compared to Apollo’s three-battery storage and 28V DC system.

Orion’s crew module will feature a streamlined glass cockpit interface for the astronauts, with about ten times fewer switches than Apollo’s roughly 450 switches.

Battery Work During Fourth Spacewalk

The joint crew of Endeavour and the station was awakened at 5:03 a.m. EDT by Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” played for lead spacewalker Dave Wolf.

Spacewalkers Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn will head outside at 9:58 a.m. to swap out all four of the remaining P6 truss batteries, a task that is expected to take about seven and a half hours. Two of the six original P6 batteries were changed out during the mission’s third spacewalk on Wednesday, but work was stopped when carbon dioxide levels in Cassidy’s suit began to rise, unexpectedly.

Space Shuttle Mission: STS-127

S127-E-007687 -- Doug Hurley
Battery Replacements During Fourth Spacewalk

STS-127 Mission Specialists Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn will tackle a challenging 7 ½-hour spacewalk today to finish swapping out batteries for the International Space Station’s oldest set of solar arrays.

Their outing will be devoted entirely to finishing the work started on the third spacewalk of the mission – removing old batteries from the Port 6 truss structure and transferring new batteries from the Integrated Cargo Carrier on the end of the station’s robotic arm to the empty sockets on the truss.

Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialist Julie Payette will position Canadarm2 near the truss for the spacewalk and, once all of the battery swaps are complete, maneuver the carrier back into Endeavour’s cargo bay. That maneuver will require them to hand off the carrier to the shuttle’s arm for re-berthing by Hurley and Commander Mark Polansky.

Oceanographer Gene Feldman is Going Home for the First Time

The Galapagos Islands were created by volcanic eruptions and have gone relatively untouched by humans over the past few millennia.It has been 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin, and 150 since the publication of his world-changing work, On the Origin of Species. It has been 50 years since the creation of the international Charles Darwin Foundation and the establishment of the Galapagos National Park by the government of Ecuador.

And it has been 25 years since Gene Feldman made the cover of Science magazine with his first paper about the living evolutionary and environmental experiment that is the Galapagos archipelago.

Now a NASA oceanographer, Feldman was studying imagery from the Coastal Zone Color Scanner on NASA's Nimbus 7 satellite while working on his doctoral research at the State University of New York. From his experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer in Western Samoa, Feldman had been curious about why some regions around oceanic islands were more productive than others. His interest was piqued when he learned that there was a NASA satellite that might help unravel the mystery.

After building a data set of some of the first ocean color observations of the region, Feldman and his colleagues believed they saw a strong correlation between the changes in the patterns and abundance of floating marine plants (phytoplankton) during the 1982-83 El Niño and the decline of seabirds and fur seals.

What was happening in the sea -- measured by ocean scientists in the currents, temperatures, chemistry, and plankton abundance -- was affecting the life in the water and on land. And all of it was visible, for the first time, from space.

At the time, Feldman wrote: "Satellite ocean color observations, with their synoptic, broad area coverage, place the often limited surface measurements into a broader perspective." Feldman and colleagues have spent the past three decades building on those remote observations of the Galapagos and of the oceans worldwide.

Of all the places in the world, there's no place like the Galapagos. The 19 volcanic islands are relatively new in geologic time, ranging from one to four million years old, with new islands still sprouting. They sit along the equator, between 700 to 1000 kilometers (435 to 621 miles) from the nearest land masses, and the isolation has also made the islands a natural laboratory for evolution.

The Galapagos are most famous for their iguanas, tortoises, blue-footed Boobies and, of course, Darwin's finches. "You'll find tropical, sub-tropical, and almost Antarctic species," Feldman says. "It's the only place where you'll find both penguins and coral reefs."

The marine life is influenced by unique oceanographic conditions. Specifically, the deep "equatorial undercurrent," or Cromwell Current, flows from the middle Pacific and slams into the islands, pushing up cool water and nutrients from the depths and into the shallower waters. Fingers of this water push east, between and beyond the islands, fertilizing the ocean on the leeward side and creating biological abundance and diversity in an area that might otherwise be barren.

For five decades, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) has been promoting and supporting research to understand and monitor biodiversity in this natural laboratory. From July 20 to 24, CDF will take stock of what has been learned in five decades, bringing together biologists, geologists, oceanographers, and historians for the Galapagos Science Symposium.

Feldman was invited to the symposium, taking him back to where it all began professionally. He has studied the islands from 600 kilometers (372 miles) up in space. He helped established a ground station on the islands to retrieve data from NASA's SeaWifs instrument on Orbital Corporation's SeaStar spacecraft. But he has never been there in person.

After the symposium, Gene will set out with John Morrison of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Stuart Bank of Charles Darwin Research Station, and other colleagues for a short research cruise. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, NASA, and CDF, the team will conduct a systematic study of the oceanographic conditions that make the waters around Galapagos so fertile for life and the evolution of it. They will also look for signals of climate change and how it affects marine ecosystems.

Divers will map habitat and survey the reefs. Water sampling instruments will examine water chemistry, temperature, and the concentration of plankton. And, of course, remote sensing eyes from Feldman's beloved satellites will capture the big picture. Throughout the trip, Gene will share his experiences through a series of blog entries on the NASA Earth Observatory.

He hopes to follow in Darwin’s footsteps and in the HMS Beagle’s wake. He has been reading the journals of Darwin and of Beagle Captain Robert Fitzroy -- not just the published accounts, but the original, hand-written notebooks and logs. He has been reading the accounts of 19th century whalers who frequented the area. He wants his 2009 trip to be his own voyage of discovery.

"I feel like I know the Galapagos so well, but I also know that I don’t know them at all."

Hubble Astronauts Connect at Tweetup

STS-125 astronaut Mike Massimino at a Tweetup at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi
Nearly 200 of NASA's Twitter followers attended the event at NASA Headquarters with astronaut Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike, above) and his crewmates from the Hubble repair mission . › @NASATweetup→ | › @NASA→ | › Flickr→

New NASA Images Indicate Object Hits Jupiter

This image shows a large impact on Jupiter's south polar region captured on July 20, 2009Scientists have found evidence that another object has bombarded Jupiter, exactly 15 years after the first impacts by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

Following up on a tip by an amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley of Australia, that a new dark "scar" had suddenly appeared on Jupiter, this morning between 3 and 9 a.m. PDT (6 a.m. and noon EDT) scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., using NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, gathered evidence indicating an impact.

New infrared images show the likely impact point was near the south polar region, with a visibly dark "scar" and bright upwelling particles in the upper atmosphere detected in near-infrared wavelengths, and a warming of the upper troposphere with possible extra emission from ammonia gas detected at mid-infrared wavelengths.

"We were extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time, the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event. We couldn't have planned it better," said Glenn Orton, a scientist at JPL.

Orton and his team of astronomers kicked into gear early in the morning and haven't stopped tracking the planet. They are downloading data now and are working to get additional observing time on this and other telescopes.

This image was taken at 1.65 microns, a wavelength sensitive to sunlight reflected from high in Jupiter's atmosphere, and it shows both the bright center of the scar (bottom left) and the debris to its northwest (upper left).

"It could be the impact of a comet, but we don't know for sure yet," said Orton. "It's been a whirlwind of a day, and this on the anniversary of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 and Apollo anniversaries is amazing."

Shoemaker-Levy 9 was a comet that had been seen to break into many pieces before the pieces hit Jupiter in 1994.

Leigh Fletcher, a NASA postdoctoral fellow at JPL who worked with Orton during these latest observations said, "Given the rarity of these events, it's extremely exciting to be involved in these observations. These are the most exciting observations I've seen in my five years of observing the outer planets!"

The observations were made possible in large measure by the extraordinary efforts of the Infrared Telescope Facility staff, including telescope operator William Golisch, who adroitly moved three instruments in and out of the field during the short time the scar was visible on the planet, providing the wide wavelength coverage.

Path of 2009 Solar Eclipse


NASA And Google Launch Virtual Exploration of The Moon

Two astronauts placed an American flag on the Moon’s surface during a television broadcast of the event.Forty years ago on July 20, 1969, the world watched as the crew of Apollo 11 took the first steps on the surface of the moon.
To celebrate this historic occasion, NASA and Google announced the launch of the Moon in Google Earth, an interactive, 3D atlas of the moon, viewable with Google Earth 5.0.

The announcement was made during a press conference at the Newseum in Washington, featuring remarks by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin; Alan Eustace, a Google senior vice president; Andrew Chaikin, author and space historian; and Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist.

With the Moon in Google Earth, users can explore a virtual moonscape, follow guided tours from astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jack Schmidt, view high-resolution "street view" style panoramic images and see previously unreleased footage captured from the lunar surface.

Whether rediscovering iconic moments from the history of lunar exploration, or learning about them for the first time, the Moon in Google Earth enables users to better understand the moon and mankind's relationship to it using an immersive, 3D experience.

The result of a close collaboration with NASA, the Moon in Google Earth showcases current and historic content about the moon. All NASA data sets used in the Moon in Google Earth are included on a non-exclusive basis.

"Today's announcement builds on the ongoing relationship with Google that Ames Research Center initiated in November 2006, when we signed a Space Act Agreement to foster collaboration with our Silicon Valley neighbor," said S. Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "We're excited to be a part of this latest chapter in Google's efforts to bring virtual exploration of the moon to anyone with a computer."

In addition to satellite imagery and topographical data, the following layers can be explored:

• Featured Satellite Imagery – Explore overlaid satellite imagery and detailed descriptions of selected areas on the moon from Arizona State University's "Lunar Image of the Week."
• Spacecraft Imagery - View selected imagery captured by the Apollo Metric Camera, and the Clementine and the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft
• Apollo Missions – Travel back to the Apollo era and discover the landing sites of Apollo missions 11-17. Explore "street view" style panoramic images, watch previously unreleased footage from spacecraft films and read about the places astronauts saw on their trips to the moon.
• Guided Tours – Take a narrated tour of the moon with Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11) and Jack Schmitt (Apollo 17)
• Historic Maps – Explore Apollo-era geologic and topographic maps of the moon.
• Human Artifacts – Learn about the various types of exploratory equipment that humans have left on the moon and where those objects can be found today.

To view the Moon in Google Earth, open Google Earth 5.0 and switch modes from "Earth" to "Moon" on the top toolbar. To learn more about Moon in Google Earth, visit:

The Moon in Google Earth was jointly developed by Google, the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group, and the SETI Institute as part of NASA's Planetary Content project.

Data sets for the Moon in Google Earth were developed with the assistance of the United States Geologic Survey (USGS), Arizona State University and the Lunar and Planetary Institute. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency provided terrain data from the Kaguya orbiter. The initial release does not contain any imagery from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The NASA Lunar Mapping and Modeling Project provided a high-resolution base map and 3D terrain model covering a portion of the nearside lunar equatorial region, which was developed using new digital scans of the Apollo 15 Metric Camera (orbit 33) images made by Arizona State University and NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. he NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Analogs Program provided content for the Apollo 17 tour.

For more information about NASA's plans to return to the moon and explore beyond visit

NASA's 'Mr. Eclipse' Retires but Still Chasing Shadows

The path of the total solar eclipse on July 22, 2009, will sweep across nearly half of Earth, beginning in India and ending in the Pacific Ocean.Have you ever glimpsed the moon's shadow as it passes in front of the sun's disk casting a dark shadow on Earth and revealing the sun's ephemeral outer atmosphere? Have you witnessed Earth's shadow as it slowly sweeps over a full moon, taking successively bigger bites until the entire disk is red-tinged and darkly shaded? If so, then you already know the wonderment of chasing celestial shadows.

And if you have ever looked up the "where," "when," and "what type" for an eclipse, you may be familiar with Fred Espenak, better known as "Mr. Eclipse."

American astrophysicist Fred Espenak has had a long and prolific career at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Since 1978, Espenak has provided eclipse bulletins -- detailed descriptions of eclipse predictions, maps, and weather information for upcoming eclipses -- for NASA as well as inspiration to legions of eclipse aficionados. He also has authored several works on eclipse predictions, including the Fifty Year Canon of Solar Eclipses: 1986-2035 and the Fifty Year Canon of Lunar Eclipses: 1986-2035.

Espenak's passion for astronomy and eclipses began when he was about 7 or 8 years old. "I was visiting my grandparents out in their summer home in Long Island," he recalls. "One of the neighborhood boys had a small telescope. I remember taking a look at the moon through that telescope for the first time. I think I pestered my father for 2 years after that before I got my first telescope. And that just ignited my interest in astronomy."

Since then, Espenak has observed more than 20 eclipses in person. Whether total, partial or annular, each eclipse is as different in character as two siblings, says Espenak. "Each has special features to it," says Espenak.

Eclipses come in two types: solar and lunar. An eclipse of the sun happens when the moon passes directly between Earth and the sun. When the moon's shadow falls on Earth, people within that shadow see part (or all) of the sun's disk covered, or eclipsed, by the moon. During a lunar eclipse, Earth passes between the sun and moon and blocks sunlight from reaching the moon. Because of the geometry of eclipses, whether your see all or part of an eclipse depends on where you are located on Earth.

An eclipse of the sun can be total, partial, or annular. During a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks the sun's entire disk for those standing within the "path of totality," the path of the moon's dark inner shadow, or umbra. Observers in the moon's faint outer shadow (penumbra) will witness partial coverage of the sun.

An annular eclipse happens when the tip of the moon's umbra doesn't quite reach Earth. For observers situated beneath the umbral shadow, the moon will look slightly smaller than the sun, with a thin ring, or annulus, of sunlight remaining visible during the eclipse. An annular eclipse is also called a hybrid eclipse.

Which kind of eclipse is Espenak's favorite? "I like solar eclipses and lunar eclipses for two different reasons."

"Nothing can compare to a total solar eclipse," he says. "But you're putting all your eggs in one basket when you go on a solar eclipse expedition because you've only got usually two, or three, or four precious minutes when you've got that opportunity to see the sun's corona. All the equipment has to be working perfectly. The weather has to cooperate. You've got to be at the right place at the right time. It is very stressful."

"A lunar eclipse is a very beautiful event, but it doesn't have that excitement of a solar eclipse, where you've just got those two minutes. The total phase usually lasts an hour or more, so it's much more of a leisurely event. You can sit back, watch, and relax." Lunar eclipses also happen more frequently than solar eclipses.

Though he recently retired from NASA, don't expect Espenak's passion for chasing shadows to wane any time soon. "I think the beauty of the eclipses is something that anybody can appreciate," he says. "What I usually tell people is if they ever have the opportunity to see a total solar eclipse, or if they're on a vacation and a total solar eclipse just happens to be taking place nearby, get into the path of the total eclipse," says Espenak.

His next expedition will take him to the Pacific Ocean to observe a total solar eclipse on July 22. The path of totality begins in India, crosses through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China. The duration of totality will last 6 minutes, 39 seconds. A partial eclipse will be visible in parts of Asia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Ocean.

Related Links:

For more information about the July 22 eclipse, visit or