FUSE space telescope mission ends

Oct. 10, 2007 at 3:34 PM
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BALTIMORE, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. astronomers are preparing to end the mission of the space telescope known as FUSE after more than eight years of studying the universe.

FUSE -- the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer -- was a Johns Hopkins University-managed mission for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that complemented the Hubble Space Telescope with observations at short ultraviolet light wavelengths below the range in which Hubble operates.

The original, three-year FUSE science mission was extended by NASA three times.

Astronomers from around the world published more than 1,200 papers based on data from FUSE, which was launched in June 1999. Among many discoveries enabled by data from the 18-foot-tall, 3,000-pound satellite was the first observation of molecular nitrogen outside our solar system.

But Oct. 18, FUSE gets "put to sleep," said research Professor Bill Blair, the project's chief of operations. After approximately 30 years the satellite telescope's orbit will decay and FUSE will be incinerated as it re-enters Earth's atmosphere.

"After (Oct. 18) FUSE will be just another piece of space junk, orbiting the earth every 100 minutes or so," said Blair. "It is a sad and ignominious end to such an outstandingly successful mission.

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