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NASA is currently running the final Hubble mission, upgrading the satellite one last time. If you are interested in watching the mission in real time, as always you can see it on NASA TV, both online and on select cable systems. If their are any problems with the mission, NASA now has an emergency response shuttle ready to run a rescue flight. Part of the mission is to bring home the camera that saved the Hubble, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Installed in 1993, this was the first camera with a corrective function for the flaw in the Hubble’s mirror. To commemorate the retirement they have released one last beauty shot of planetary nebula Kohoutek 4-55; the camera will be added to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum permanent collection. For other incredible images captured by the Hubble, take a look at their Gallery site. And if you get by the Smithsonian in the next week or two, don’t forget to see the original Enterprise model used in the 60s Star Trek TV show, and maybe catch the Star Trek IMAX version of the new movie. They will also be running other Sci-Fi IMAX films including NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN and Transformers 2 Revenge of the Fallen. Here is the video of the shuttle capturing the Hubble to bring it onboard for repairs.

Visit the Spark Museum for some Steampunk vintage radio/electronics fun. It includes a picture on one page of a device I actually own, bought for 5 dollars at an estate sale from people who didn’t have a clue what the weird stuff in the back of their grandfather’s attic was. I figured it was a prize for the brass rotary voltage adjuster in the oak box, the ingenious wiring harness that allowed it to add another battery for each step you turned it up, and the full set of original 1924 RCA batteries (none leaking, and a few that could still hold a charge). It wasn’t until I got it home and did some research that I discovered what it was actually supposed to be. A word of caution if you find one of your own; it can get slightly painful if you crank it up beyond eight batteries in the circuit (You didn’t think I skipped the refurb and test part of the process, did you? What fun would that be? One should always get the full experience).

Back in November, the National Academies announced the formation of a new group to promote the use of accurate science in science fiction productions, focusing primarily on Movies and TV. The Science and Entertainment Exchange came out of the starting gate strong, with Watchmen leading the pack. A serious voice for both the acting community and the sciences, Dustin Hoffman helps make that connection now, working to get the science in science fiction right. This is not the first time this kind of thing has been done; Mike Brotherton has been the primary force behind Launchpad, a NASA funded free crash course in Astronomy and Astrophysics for science fiction authors for some years now. This years guest teachers include amateur astronomer and author Joe Haldeman, and Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy fame.