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The Pleiades cluster, named by the ancient Greeks.
NASA announced on Tuesday that it was officially considering sending a robotic mission to save the Hubble Space Telescope, instead of de-orbiting it in a few years. The agency has called for proposals from the aerospace community to come up with a robot that can be controlled from the ground, and perform the complex upgrades and repairs that previously required astronauts. They need to hurry, though, since the observatory is expected to begin failing around 2007.
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have helped settle a mystery that has puzzled scientists concerning the exact distance to the famous nearby star cluster known as the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters.
The Pleiades cluster, named by the ancient Greeks, is easily seen as a small grouping of stars lying near the shoulder of Taurus, the Bull, in the winter sky. Although it might be expected that the distance to this well-studied cluster would be well established, there has been an ongoing controversy among Astronomers about its distance for the past seven years.
The latest image released from the Spitzer space telescope is of Galaxy M33, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy. It's a very familiar object to visible astronomy, but in Spitzer's Infrared gaze, the Galaxy reveals some of its "coolest" features; clouds of dust created in novae and supernovae, and then blown around the Galaxy in winds from giant stars. M33 is 50,000 light years across and nearly perfectly face on, so you can see right to its centre - a place obscured by gas and dust in our own Milky Way.
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