Nasa Image of the Day
What Lurks Below NASA’s Chamber A?

What Lurks Below NASA’s Chamber A?

Hidden beneath Chamber A at the Johnson Space Center is an area engineers used to test critical contamination control technology that has helped keep our James Webb Space Telescope clean during cryogenic testing.

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The Sky Tonight Astronomy News
Webcam on Mars Express surveys high-altitude clouds - Read more >
Tue, 17 Oct 2017 11:00:00 +0200


An unprecedented catalogue of more than 21 000 images taken by a webcam on ESA’s Mars Express is proving its worth as a science instrument, providing a global survey of unusual high-altitude cloud features on the Red Planet.




NASA Missions Catch First Light From a Gravitational-Wave Event
Mon, 16 Oct 2017 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Neutron Star Collision Cooks Up Exotic Elements, Gravitational Waves

When some people get in the kitchen, they create a delicious meal but leave behind a chaotic mess of splattered food and dirty dishes. Cosmic cookery can be just as messy. While a star can create chemical elements as heavy as iron within its core, anything heavier needs a more powerful source like a stellar explosion or the collision of two neutron stars.

Colliding neutron stars can yield gold, plutonium, and a variety of other elements. Theoretically, they also generate gravitational waves as they spiral together at breakneck speed before merging. The first gravitational wave signal from a neutron star merger was detected on August 17. It was accompanied by gamma rays and other light, allowing astronomers to locate a gravitational wave source for the first time.

Hubble photographed the glow from this titanic collision, shining within the galaxy NGC 4993 at a distance of 130 million light-years. Hubble also obtained an infrared spectrum that may yield signs of exotic, radioactive elements. The analysis will continue while astronomers wait for the gravitational wave source to emerge from behind the Sun from Earth’s point of view, where it slipped just days after discovery.



Integral sees blast travelling with gravitational waves - Read more >
Mon, 16 Oct 2017 16:00:00 +0200


ESA’s Integral satellite recently played a crucial role in discovering the flash of gamma rays linked to the gravitational waves released by the collision of two neutron stars.




Blue Mars - Read more >
Mon, 16 Oct 2017 12:00:00 +0200


Space Science Image of the Week: A cloudy day over volcanic Mars, captured by the ExoMars orbiter



To Mars with ESA and the Guggenheim Bilbao - Read more >
Fri, 06 Oct 2017 15:00:00 +0200


ESA and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, with the BBK Foundation, are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Spanish arts centre with a performance of Chasmata, a journey to Mars through contemporary art, music and architecture. Monday’s concert can be seen online starting at 18:30 GMT (20:30 CEST).




Colourful dunes on wind-swept Mars - Read more >
Thu, 05 Oct 2017 11:00:00 +0200


Dunes are prominent indicators of prevailing winds, as can be seen on this crater floor on Mars, imaged by ESA’s Mars Express on 16 May.




Biomarker found in space complicates search for life on exoplanets - Read more >
Mon, 02 Oct 2017 17:00:00 +0200


A molecule once thought to be a useful marker for life as we know it has been discovered around a young star and at a comet for the first time, suggesting these ingredients are inherited during the planet-forming phase.




NASA's Hubble Observes the Farthest Active Inbound Comet Yet Seen
Thu, 28 Sep 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

The Comet that Came in from the Cold

A solitary frozen traveler has been journeying for millions of years toward the heart of our planetary system. The wayward vagabond, a city-sized snowball of ice and dust called a comet, was gravitationally kicked out of the Oort Cloud, its frigid home at the outskirts of the solar system. This region is a vast comet storehouse, composed of icy leftover building blocks from the construction of the planets 4.6 billion years ago.

The comet is so small, faint, and far away that it eluded detection. Finally, in May 2017, astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii spotted the solitary intruder at a whopping 1.5 billion miles away — between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. The Hubble Space Telescope was enlisted to take close-up views of the comet, called C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS (K2).

The comet is record-breaking because it is already becoming active under the feeble glow of the distant Sun. Astronomers have never seen an active inbound comet this far out, where sunlight is merely 1/225th its brightness as seen from Earth. Temperatures, correspondingly, are at a minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at such bone-chilling temperatures, a mix of ancient ices on the surface — oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide — is beginning to sublimate and shed as dust. This material balloons into a vast 80,000-mile-wide halo of dust, called a coma, enveloping the solid nucleus.

Astronomers will continue to study K2 as it travels into the inner solar system, making its closest approach to the Sun in 2022.



Unexpected surprise: a final image from Rosetta - Read more >
Thu, 28 Sep 2017 15:00:00 +0200


Scientists analysing the final telemetry sent by Rosetta immediately before it shut down on the surface of the comet last year have reconstructed one last image of its touchdown site.




Helicopter test for Jupiter icy moons radar - Read more >
Tue, 26 Sep 2017 14:00:00 +0200


A long radar boom that will probe below the surface of Jupiter’s icy moons has been tested on Earth with the help of a helicopter.




From stars to galaxies - Read more >
Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:00:00 +0200


Explore stellar nurseries in our Milky Way and other galaxies as viewed through the infrared eye of the Herschel space observatory



Comet or Asteroid? Hubble Discovers that a Unique Object is a Binary
Wed, 20 Sep 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

An Asteroid That Split in Two 5,000 Years Ago Is Spouting a Comet Tail

Astronomers categorize the minor bodies in the solar system according to their location and physical composition. Comets are a loose collection of ice and dust that fall in toward the Sun from beyond the orbits of the major planets, and grow long tails of dust and gas along the way. Asteroids are rocky or metallic and are relegated to a zone between Mars and Jupiter. But nature isn't that tidy. The Hubble Space Telescope photographed a pair of asteroids orbiting each other that have a tail of dust, which is definitely a comet-like feature. The odd object, called 2006 VW139/288P, is the first known binary asteroid that is also classified as a main-belt comet. Roughly 5,000 years ago, 2006 VW139/288P probably broke into two pieces due to a fast rotation.



Parting views - Read more >
Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:10:00 +0200


Cassini’s last look around Saturn’s neighbourhood before concluding its 13-year journey of discovery



Cassini concludes pioneering mission at Saturn - Read more >
Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:00:00 +0200


The international Cassini mission has concluded its remarkable exploration of the Saturnian system in spectacular style, by plunging into the gas planet’s atmosphere.




How to follow Cassini’s end of mission - Read more >
Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:00:00 +0200


The international Cassini mission reaches its dramatic finale this Friday by plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere, concluding 13-years of exploration around the ringed planet.




NASA's Hubble Captures Blistering Pitch-Black Planet
Thu, 14 Sep 2017 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Alien world traps most of the visible light falling into its atmosphere

Don't go looking for the proverbial black cat eating licorice in a coal bin on the planet WASP-12b. Twice the size of any planet found in our solar system, the world is as black as fresh asphalt. Unlike other planets in its class, WASP-12b has the unique capability to trap at least 94 percent of the visible starlight falling into its atmosphere.

The temperature of the atmosphere is a seething 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit, which prevents the formation of reflective clouds on the day side. The planet orbits so close to its host that it is tidally locked, which means that it keeps the same side always facing the star.

The exoplanet isn't dining alone. Its host star is also having a feast: gobbling up material swirling off the exoplanet's super-heated atmosphere.

This oddball exoplanet is one of a class of so-called "hot Jupiters" that orbit very close to their host star and are heated to extreme temperatures. WASP-12b circles a Sun-like star 1,400 light-years from Earth.



Splashdown! Crashing into martian mud - Read more >
Thu, 14 Sep 2017 11:00:00 +0200


An impactor smashing into an ice-rich surface gave rise to the complex flow features around this ancient crater on Mars.




Celebrating Europe’s science highlights with Cassini - Read more >
Wed, 06 Sep 2017 16:00:00 +0200


The international Cassini­-Huygens mission has explored Saturn and its rings and moons for 13 years, and will conclude by plunging into the planet’s atmosphere next week. This article highlights some of the mission’s exciting discoveries led by European teams.




Close encounters of the stellar kind - Read more >
Thu, 31 Aug 2017 10:00:00 +0200


The movements of more than 300 000 stars surveyed by ESA’s Gaia satellite reveal that rare close encounters with our Sun might disturb the cloud of comets at the far reaches of our Solar System, sending some towards Earth in the distant future.




Space-inspired Star Storm to premiere next month - Read more >
Wed, 30 Aug 2017 16:00:00 +0200


Star Storm, an explosive performance inspired by stellar processes in the Universe, will be premiered at the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria, on 10 September.




Solar spectacular seen from Earth and space - Read more >
Tue, 22 Aug 2017 10:00:00 +0200


While ground-based observers experienced the awe-inspiring view of a total solar eclipse yesterday, astronauts aboard the International Space Station, and our Sun-watching satellites, enjoyed unique perspectives of this spectacular sight from space.




Tracking a solar eruption through the Solar System - Read more >
Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:00:00 +0200


Ten spacecraft, from ESA’s Venus Express to NASA’s Voyager-2, felt the effect of a solar eruption as it washed through the Solar System while three other satellites watched, providing a unique perspective on this space weather event.




Hubble Detects Exoplanet with Glowing Water Atmosphere
Wed, 02 Aug 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Scorching "Hot Jupiter" Has a Stratospheric Layer

Only when we fly in a commercial jet at an altitude of about 33,000 feet do we enter Earth's stratosphere, a cloudless layer of our atmosphere that blocks ultraviolet light. Astronomers were fascinated to find evidence for a stratosphere on a planet orbiting another star. As on Earth, the planet's stratosphere is a layer where temperatures increase with higher altitudes, rather than decrease. However, the planet (WASP-121b) is anything but Earth-like. The Jupiter-sized planet is so close to its parent star that the top of the atmosphere is heated to a blazing 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 degrees Celsius), hot enough to rain molten iron! This new Hubble Space Telescope observation allows astronomers to compare processes in exoplanet atmospheres with the same processes that happen under different sets of conditions in our own solar system.



NASA's Hubble Sees Martian Moon Orbiting the Red Planet
Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

The Tiny Moon Phobos Is Photographed During Its Quick Trip Around Mars

While photographing Mars, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured a cameo appearance of the tiny moon Phobos on its trek around the Red Planet. Discovered in 1877, the diminutive, potato-shaped moon is so small that it appears star-like in the Hubble pictures. Phobos orbits Mars in just 7 hours and 39 minutes, which is faster than Mars rotates. The moon’s orbit is very slowly shrinking, meaning it will eventually shatter under Mars’ gravitational pull, or crash into the planet. Hubble took 13 separate exposures over 22 minutes to create a time-lapse video showing the moon’s orbital path.



Hubble Pushed Beyond Limits to Spot Clumps of New Stars in Distant Galaxy
Thu, 06 Jul 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Gravitational lens helps reveal "fireworks" in the early universe

When the universe was young, stars formed at a much higher rate than they do today. By peering across billions of light-years of space, Hubble can study this early era. But at such distances, galaxies shrink to smudges that hide key details. Astronomers have teased out those details in one distant galaxy by combining Hubble’s sharp vision with the natural magnifying power of a gravitational lens. The result is an image 10 times better than what Hubble could achieve on its own, showing dense clusters of brilliant, young stars that resemble cosmic fireworks.



Hubble Captures Massive Dead Disk Galaxy that Challenges Theories of Galaxy Evolution
Wed, 21 Jun 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Young, Dead, Compact, Disk Galaxy Surprises Astronomers, Offers New Clues to How Modern-Day Elliptical Galaxies Formed

Astronomers combined the power of a “natural lens” in space with the capability of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to make a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang. Researchers say that finding such a galaxy so early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how massive galaxies form and evolve. Astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through galaxies merging together. Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk. The galaxy, called MACS 2129-1, is considered “dead” because it is no longer making stars. This new insight is forcing astronomers to rethink their theories of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies. “Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early ‘dead’ galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven’t been able to resolve them,” said study leader Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.



Icy Moons, Galaxy Clusters, and Distant Worlds Among Selected Targets for James Webb Space Telescope
Thu, 15 Jun 2017 14:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Webb Telescope Guaranteed Time Observations Targets Announced

Mission officials for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope announced some of the science targets the telescope will observe following its launch and commissioning. These specific observations are part of a program of Guaranteed Time Observations (GTO), which provides dedicated time to the scientists that helped design and build the telescope’s four instruments. The broad spectrum of initial GTO observations will address all of the science areas Webb is designed to explore, from first light and the assembly of galaxies to the birth of stars and planets. Targets will range from the solar system’s outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) and icy Kuiper Belt to exoplanets to distant galaxies in the young universe.



Hubble Astronomers Develop a New Use for a Century-Old Relativity Experiment to Measure a White Dwarf's Mass
Wed, 07 Jun 2017 11:15:00 EDTHubble Image

White dwarf shows how gravity can bend starlight

Albert Einstein reshaped our understanding of the fabric of space. In his general theory of relativity in 1915, he proposed the revolutionary idea that massive objects warp space, due to the effects of gravity. Until that time, Isaac Newton's theory of gravity from two centuries earlier held sway: that space was unchanging. Einstein's theory was experimentally verified four years later when a team led by British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington measured how much the sun's gravity deflected the image of a background star as its light grazed the sun during a solar eclipse. Astronomers had to wait a century, however, to build telescopes powerful enough to detect this gravitational warping phenomenon caused by a star outside our solar system. The amount of deflection is so small only the sharpness of the Hubble Space Telescope could measure it.

Hubble observed the nearby white dwarf star Stein 2051 B as it passed in front of a background star. During the close alignment, the white dwarf's gravity bent the light from the distant star, making it appear offset by about 2 milliarcseconds from its actual position. This deviation is so small that it is equivalent to observing an ant crawl across the surface of a quarter from 1,500 miles away.



Jackpot! Cosmic Magnifying-Glass Effect Captures Universe's Brightest Galaxies
Tue, 06 Jun 2017 15:15:00 EDTHubble Image

Galaxies Shine with the Brilliance of up to 100 Trillion Suns

Astronomers were fascinated in the 1980s with the discovery of nearby dust-enshrouded galaxies that glowed thousands of times brighter than our Milky Way galaxy in infrared light. Dubbed ultra-luminous infrared galaxies, they were star-making factories, churning out a prodigious amount of stars every year. What wasn't initially clear was what powered these giant infrared light bulbs. Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope helped astronomers confirm the source of the galaxies' light output. Many of them reside within "nests" of galaxies engaged in multiple pile-ups of three, four or even five galaxies. The dust is produced by the firestorm of star birth, which glows fiercely in infrared light.

Now Hubble is illuminating the bright galaxies' distant dust-enshrouded cousins. Boosted by natural magnifying lenses in space, Hubble has captured unique close-up views of the universe's brightest infrared galaxies. The galaxies are ablaze with runaway star formation, pumping out more than 10,000 new stars a year. This unusually rapid star birth is occurring at the peak of the universe's star-making boom more than 8 billion years ago. The star-birth frenzy creates lots of dust, which enshrouds the galaxies, making them too faint to detect in visible light. But they glow fiercely in infrared light, shining with the brilliance of 10 trillion to 100 trillion suns.

The galaxy images, magnified through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, reveal a tangled web of misshapen objects punctuated by exotic patterns such as rings and arcs. The odd shapes are due largely to the foreground lensing galaxies' powerful gravity distorting the images of the background galaxies. Two possibilities for the star-making frenzy are galaxy collisions or gas spilling into the galaxies.



Mini-Flares Potentially Jeopardize Habitability of Planets Circling Red Dwarf Stars
Tue, 06 Jun 2017 11:15:00 EDTHubble Image

Solar flares and associated eruptions can trigger auroras on Earth or, more ominously, damage satellites and power grids. Could flares on cool, red dwarf stars cause even more havoc to orbiting planets, even rendering them uninhabitable? To help answer that question, astronomers sought to find out how many flares such stars typically unleash.

A new study of archival ultraviolet observations from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) spacecraft detected dozens of flares from red dwarf stars. Some flares were weaker than any previously detected. Since smaller flares tend to occur more frequently, these tiny flares might have big implications for planetary habitability.



Hubble's Tale of Two Exoplanets: Nature vs. Nurture
Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:15:00 EDTHubble Image

Atmospheres of Two Hot Jupiters: Cloudy and Clear

Astronomers once thought that the family of planets that orbit our sun were typical of what would eventually be found around other stars: a grouping of small rocky planets like Earth huddled close to their parent star, and an outer family of monstrous gaseous planets like Jupiter and Saturn.

But ever since the discovery of the first planet around another star (or exoplanet) the universe looks a bit more complicated — if not downright capricious. There is an entire class of exoplanets called "hot Jupiters." They formed like Jupiter did, in the frigid outer reaches of their planetary system, but then changed Zip code! They migrated inward to be so close to their star that temperatures are well over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Astronomers would like to understand the weather on these hot Jupiters and must tease out atmospheric conditions by analyzing how starlight filters through a planet's atmosphere. If the spectral fingerprint of water can be found, then astronomers conclude the planet must have relatively clear skies that lets them see deep into the atmosphere. If the spectrum doesn't have any such telltale fingerprints, then the planet is bland-looking with a high cloud deck.

Knowing the atmospheres on these distant worlds yields clues to how they formed and evolved around their parent star. In a unique experiment, astronomers aimed the Hubble Space Telescope at two "cousin" hot Jupiters that are similar in several respects. However, the researchers were surprised to learn that one planet is very cloudy, and the other has clear skies.



Collapsing Star Gives Birth to a Black Hole
Thu, 25 May 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Massive Dying Star Goes Out With a Whimper Instead of a Bang

Every second a star somewhere out in the universe explodes as a supernova. But some super-massive stars go out with a whimper instead of a bang. When they do, they can collapse under the crushing tug of gravity and vanish out of sight, only to leave behind a black hole. The doomed star, named N6946-BH1, was 25 times as massive as our sun. It began to brighten weakly in 2009. But, by 2015, it appeared to have winked out of existence. By a careful process of elimination, based on observations by the Large Binocular Telescope and the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the researchers eventually concluded that the star must have become a black hole. This may be the fate for extremely massive stars in the universe.



Hubble Spots Moon Around Third Largest Dwarf Planet
Thu, 18 May 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Most of the dwarf planets now have known moons

Beyond the orbit of Neptune lies a frigid, dark, vast frontier of countless icy bodies left over from the solar system's construction 4.6 billion years ago. This region, called the Kuiper Belt, was hypothesized by astronomer Gerard Kuiper in 1951. But it took another four decades for astronomers to confirm its existence. The largest bodies are called dwarf planets, with Pluto being the biggest member. Pluto is so big, in fact, that it was discovered 60 years before other Kuiper worlds were detected. Moons around dwarf planets are elusive, though. Pluto's moon Charon wasn't found until the mid-1970s.

Now, astronomers have uncovered a moon around another dwarf planet by using the combined power of three space observatories, including archival images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Called 2007 OR10, it is the third-largest dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt. With this moon's discovery, most of the known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt larger than 600 miles across have companions. These bodies provide insight into how moons formed in the young solar system. In fact, there is an emerging view that collisions between planetary bodies can result in the formation of moons. Based on moon rock samples from NASA's Apollo mission, astronomers believe that Earth's only natural satellite was born out of a collision with a Mars-sized object 4.4 billion years ago.



Observatories Combine to Crack Open the Crab Nebula
Wed, 10 May 2017 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Colorful New Portrait Shows Energetic Details Embedded in Supernova Remnant
In the summer of the year 1054 AD, Chinese astronomers saw a new "guest star," that appeared six times brighter than Venus. So bright in fact, it could be seen during the daytime for several months. Halfway around the world, Native Americans made pictographs of a crescent moon with the bright star nearby that some think may also have been a record of the supernova.

This "guest star" was forgotten about until 700 years later with the advent of telescopes. Astronomers saw a tentacle-like nebula in the place of the vanished star and called it the Crab Nebula. Today we know it as the expanding gaseous remnant from a star that self-detonated as a supernova, briefly shining as brightly as 400 million suns. The explosion took place 6,500 light-years away. If the blast had instead happened 50 light-years away it would have irradiated Earth, wiping out most life forms.

In the late 1960s astronomers discovered the crushed heart of the doomed star, an ultra-dense neutron star that is a dynamo of intense magnetic field and radiation energizing the nebula. Astronomers therefore need to study the Crab Nebula across a broad range of electromagnetic radiation, from X-rays to radio waves. This composite picture from five observatories captures the complexity of this tortured-looking supernova remnant.



A Lot of Galaxies Need Guarding in This NASA Hubble View
Thu, 04 May 2017 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Power of Massive Galaxy Cluster Harnessed to Probe Remote Galaxies in Early Universe
Like the quirky characters in the upcoming film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has some amazing superpowers, specifically when it comes to observing galaxies across time and space. One stunning example is galaxy cluster Abell 370, which contains a vast assortment of several hundred galaxies tied together by the mutual pull of gravity. That's a lot of galaxies to be guarding, and just in this one cluster! Photographed in a combination of visible and near-infrared light, the immense cluster is a rich mix of galaxy shapes. Entangled among the galaxies are mysterious-looking arcs of blue light. These are actually distorted images of remote galaxies behind the cluster. These far-flung galaxies are too faint for Hubble to see directly. Instead, the gravity of the cluster acts as a huge lens in space, magnifying and stretching images of background galaxies like a funhouse mirror. Abell 370 is located approximately 4 billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus, the Sea Monster. It is the last of six galaxy clusters imaged in the recently concluded Frontier Fields project — an ambitious, community-developed collaboration among NASA's Great Observatories and other telescopes that harnessed the power of massive galaxy clusters and probed the earliest stages of galaxy development.



A New Angle on Two Spiral Galaxies for Hubble's 27th Birthday
Thu, 20 Apr 2017 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Hubble Celebrates Its Anniversary with a Spectacular Pair of Galaxies

When the Hubble Space Telescope launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, astronomers could only dream what they might see. Now, 27 years and more than a million observations later, the telescope delivers yet another magnificent view of the universe — this time, a striking pair of spiral galaxies much like our own Milky Way. These island cities of stars, which are approximately 55 million light-years away, give astronomers an idea of what our own galaxy would look like to an outside observer. The edge-on galaxy is called NGC 4302, and the tilted galaxy is NGC 4298. Although the pinwheel galaxies look quite different because they are angled at different positions on the sky, they are actually very similar in terms of their structure and contents.


This Month's Sky Map
This Month's Sky Map

Take a look at this month's Sky Map to help you explore the wonders of the night sky!

Ideal for all sky watchers including beginners to astronomy.

The Sky Map will help you identify planets, bright stars, constellations and nebulae!
Printable version available too!


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