NPR : News

Filed Under:

NASA Has Shut Down Space Telescope Orbiting Earth

NASA is sending a reliable servant into a retirement that will end with a fiery re-entry into Earth's atmosphere in about 65 years. That's the fate that awaits the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, the "galaxy hunter" space telescope whose original 29-month mission was extended to more than 10 years.

Along the way, the orbiting system, known as GALEX, helped scientists study how galaxies and stars are born, and how they change over time.

Since its launch in the spring of 2003, GALEX photographed nebulae and spiral galaxies, and "used its ultraviolet vision to study hundreds of millions of galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic time," NASA says.

GALEX was shut down at 3:09 p.m. ET Friday, when a decommission signal was sent to the orbiting craft, according to NASA, which has also published a photo gallery of compelling images from the project.

"GALEX is a remarkable accomplishment," says Jeff Hayes, NASA's GALEX program executive in Washington. "This small Explorer mission has mapped and studied galaxies in the ultraviolet, light we cannot see with our own eyes, across most of the sky."

The space agency published this list of highlights in GALEX's career:

-- Discovering a gargantuan, comet-like tail behind a speeding star called Mira.
— Catching a black hole "red-handed" as it munched on a star.
— Finding giant rings of new stars around old, dead galaxies.
— Independently confirming the nature of dark energy.
— Discovering a missing link in galaxy evolution — the teenage galaxies transitioning from young to old.

And they're likely to be joined by other revelations, as the reams of data yielded by the space telescope project are reviewed. NASA and the California Institute of Technology, which manages the Jet Propulsion Lab for the space agency, plan to release the project's most recent data to the public in the next 12 months.

"GALEX, the mission, may be over, but its science discoveries will keep on going," says NASA's Kerry Erickson, the mission's project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Check Out This 1999 Profile Of The Late, Great Juan Gabriel

Juan Gabriel stayed true to his roots, even when it wasn't easy. This LA Times piece takes a look at why that was.
NPR

Northeast Farmers Grapple With Worst Drought In More Than A Decade

This year, many fields are bone dry — and that has many farmers in the region thinking about how to manage their land, their animals and the water that is there.
WAMU 88.5

State Taxes, School Budgets And The Quality Of Public Education

Budget cutbacks have made it impossible for many states to finance their public schools. But some have bucked the trend by increasing taxes and earmarking those funds for education. Taxes, spending and the quality of public education.

NPR

Scientists Looking For Alien Life Investigate 'Interesting' Signal From Space

Russian astronomers detected an unusual radio signal last year. The SETI Institute says it's too soon to say if the signal came from intelligent lifeforms — but researchers are checking it out.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.