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Mission Status Report #89      Star Date: July 26, 2005

FUSE Recovery Continues

Caption: The FUSE satellite floats in front of an infrared image of the Carina Nebula, a region of intense star formation, taken with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Many hot stars within this nebula, including the enigmatic Eta Carina itself, have been the subject of intense study with FUSE observations. Joint observations at several wavelengths using facilities from ground-based telescopes to NASA space telescopes are needed to fully understand complex processes such as star formation. (Graphic courtesy NASA and Lauren Fowler, the JHU FUSE project.)

(Click image above to see larger version.)

I am happy to report steady progress over the last month as we work to return the FUSE satellite to normal operations. We have spent the lion's share of the last month operating on a timeline (or Mission Planning Schedule), learning as we go. The observations we have performed are "conservative" in the sense that they are in parts of the sky where we have demonstrated reasonable stability. When currently proposed science targets are in the available stable region, we observe them. When they are not, we define sky background regions and observe those. The latter data sets are made available to the observing community immediately, and are of significant interest to a subset of the community who study the hot interstellar medium. As we move forward, our efforts will concentrate on demonstrating that we can open up our sky coverage to get to a larger fraction of the sky, and thus more targets.

One of the many reasons we are working so hard to restore the FUSE capability is because of the unique roll FUSE plays in multiwavelength studies. The image above shows a picture of the Carina Nebula obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope, which observes in infrared light. (See the Astronomy Picture of the Day site for June 2, 2005, for more information on this picture.) Astronomers have used FUSE to observe numerous stars within this nebular region. FUSE observations not only tell us about the stars themselves, but also reveal details about the gas and dust on the sightline to each star, information that is just not available from optical or other wavelength observations. By coupling observations from several sources, astronomers can build up a more complete picture of the physical conditions and processes occuring in such regions. No one telescope does it all. Located at about -60 degrees declination, the Carina Nebula is in a part of the sky that we can readily observe with FUSE, and just last week we performed a new observation of the most massive star in the nebula, Eta Carina. (Eta Carina has also been a favorite target of the Hubble Space Telescope; see THIS LINK for a Hubble Gallery image of Eta Carina.)

A key element, however, as we move downstream, will be getting a pool of potential targets that is weighted towards the part of the sky we can observe with relative ease. Cycle 6 and earlier targets were selected assuming the "old FUSE," with two operational reaction wheels. With only one wheel, our sky coverage is more restricted. NASA is about to release the call for Cycle 7 of FUSE observations, where the community can propose targets specifically in the regions where FUSE can operate well. This will make a tremendous difference in the scientific output we can produce over the course of a year of observing. Details about Cycle 7 can be found on the FUSE Guest Investigator support page [link no longer active]. The deadline for new proposals is Sept. 16, 2005.

As usual, I offer continued thanks to all of the FUSE Sciences Operations team, including our partners on the Mission Operations Team from Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., and our colleagues at Orbital Sciences Corporation, for their tremendous effort so far, and for their ongoing efforts as we improve the FUSE control system.

Reported by: Bill Blair, FUSE Chief of Observatory Operations

Last Update: July 26, 2005

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