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Is NASA covering up Hubble pictures?

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 Things to beware of in 1997:
 Govermental attempts to control or legislate the 'net'; remember that 
 control is just a synonym for 'manipulate'!
                     Is NASA covering up Hubble pictures?
 From the Hubble Space Telescope "Call for Observing Proposal" manual:
      "The telescope does not generally observe targets within 50
      degrees of the Sun [...]. When the scientific justification is
      compelling, time critical observations of solar-system objects
      lying between 45 and 50 degrees from the Sun may be carried out."
 Keeping this limitations in mind, here is a chronology of the HST
    * Some images obtained in September and October 1995 (cf below).
    * The comet was in the forbidden 50 degree region from early November
      1995 until early March 1996
    * In March 1996, all the available observing time was focused on Comet
    * HST performed some observations in April, May, June, July, September,
      October (the observing log is available).
         o The April--June images looked the same as those of fall 1995, so
           there was no urgency to process/release them.
         o The comet started to develop some nice jets in July 1996
         o Most of the comet scientist were preparing and attending
           scientific meetings in Europe during the summer.
         o In response to enquiries in October (at the time of the American
           Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Science meeting),
           H.Weaver (P.I. of the HST program) processed some of the latest
           images an put them on the Web; they are also shown below.
    * Late October 96: the comet enters again the 50deg. exclusion limit. It
      will not leave it until August 1997. In March 1997, the comet will be
      at 46 deg from the Sun, and therefore may theoretically be observed.
      However, the second HST servicing mission is scheduled for February
      1997, and it is unlikely that the telescope will be ready in time to
      observe Hale Bopp.
 There were also many questions about the 1 year proprietary period on HST
 data. The Principal Investigator (P.I.) and his team have proposed a
 project to the Space Telescope Science Institute (ST-ScI). Such a proposal
 represents lots of time and efforts. If the proposal is among the bests of
 all those that are received by the ST-Sci, that project is awarded some
 observing time, and the PI must send a "Phase II" proposal, which describes
 the observations in a VERY detailed way. This represents a HUGE amount of
 work. When the observations are finally performed, the P.I. receives the
 data at his institute. To transform these raw data into nice images is time
 consuming. To measure them and analyze them scientifically can take many
 months. The one year proprietary period ensures that the team who has done
 all the work has a privileged access to the data, but that year is very
 short in comparison to the amount of work that has to be done. On the other
 hand, if the data contain something spectacular, the P.I. can decide to
 produce quickly some nice-looking images and release them to the public.
 These are widely available, but should not be confused with the real data,
 which are usually not as pretty, but scientifically much more interesting
 for the astronomers (and most probably boring for anybody else).
 Copy of H.Weaver's page:
 The above figure shows the temporal evolution of Comet Hale-Bopp over the
 course of about 1 year, as observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. In the
 far-left frame we caught the comet about 60 hours after a huge outburst of
 dust, and the image shows an impressive spiral structure reminiscent of a
 water sprinkler observed from above. The middle frame shows the comet
 during a more quiescent phase in which hardly any structure is seen in the
 coma without employing a strong intensity contrast in the display. The
 image at the far-right shows that the comet has now taken on a "porcupine"
 appearance as at least five jets can be seen sprouting from the nucleus.
 The nucleus of the comet is located at the center of each frame, but most
 of the light observed is due to scattered sunlight from fine dust grains
 that are emitted from the nucleus and which produce the cometary "coma".
 Each frame above is 10 arcsec across. For the far-left frame this
 corresponds to 47,000 km at the comet, for the middle frame this
 corresponds to 49,000 km at the comet, and for the far-right frame this
 corresponds to 21,000 km at the comet. (The comet was much closer to the
 Earth during the September 1996 observations.)
 Olivier Hainaut
 Created: Thu Nov 28 16:53:34 1996 --- Updated: Sat Dec 14 21:15:00 1996 --

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