August 8th, 2011
04:12 PM ET

Coronal Mass Ejections

A coronal mass ejection, or CME, is a burst of solar winds, plasma and magnetic fields released into space. CMEs are sometimes associated with solar flares and other activity. If a CME reaches Earth, it's referred to as an interplanetary CME. On Earth, such activity can interrupt radio communications and damage satellites and electrical transmission lines.

CMEs reaching Earth can also produce strong auroras around Earth's magnetic poles, known as the Northern and Southern Lights.

Read more on coronal mass ejections.

Filed under: Glossary
July 13th, 2011
11:00 AM ET

Glossary: supermassive black hole

The largest type of black hole in a galaxy, believed to exist at the center of most if not all galaxies, including the Milky Way.

Filed under: Glossary
Decoding launch radio traffic
July 8th, 2011
11:17 AM ET

Decoding launch radio traffic

When a spacecraft as complex as the space shuttle lifts off, it takes an immense amount of precise coordination between those in launch control in Florida, mission control in Houston, and of course the astronauts in the space shuttle. All of this communication happens via radio traffic, and for those watching, can sound like a well-rehearsed jargon-filled diatribe.

Astronaut Douglas Wheelock took to twitter this morning to share a little insight on what some of it means to those who will be watching and listening to NASA's final space shuttle launch. FULL POST

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Filed under: Glossary • In Space
July 7th, 2011
05:46 PM ET

Glossary: STS

Space Transportation System is the official name for the space shuttle program. The system consists of the Orbiter, the two solid rocket boosters, and the external tank.

Filed under: Glossary
July 6th, 2011
05:46 PM ET

Glossary: NASA

NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and is the American governmental agency responsible for civilian spaceflight, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

The agency was established on July 29, 1958 by the National Aeronautics and Space Act and has since established and supported such programs as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle.

Filed under: Glossary
July 1st, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Glossary: ET

The ET, or external tank, is the large orange tank mounted on the belly of the space shuttle's orbiter. It is filled with liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer ahead of launch, and feeds both substances to the space shuttle's main engines during launch.

Filed under: Glossary
June 30th, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Glossary: reboost

The process of raising the orbit of a satellite or spacecraft. Because certain craft are in low-Earth orbit, they experience some atmospheric drag which decays the orbit. The International Space Station, for example, is periodically reboosted to prevent it from falling to Earth.

Filed under: Glossary
June 30th, 2011
05:40 PM ET

Glossary: Stringer

A vertical strip of metal, 108 of which surround the Shuttle's external tank and provide structural support.

Filed under: Glossary
June 28th, 2011
06:14 PM ET

Glossary: lightyear

A lightyear, as defined by the International Astronomical Union, is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year. It is equal to roughly 10 trillion kilometers (about 6 trillion miles). A lightyear is one unit used to measure distances on a galactic scale.

Filed under: Glossary
June 27th, 2011
06:28 PM ET

Glossary: MECO

MECO is main-engine cutoff, the point at which a space craft's main engines stop firing. For the space shuttle, MECO occurs about 8 minutes after liftoff and indicates that the shuttle has reached orbit.

Filed under: Glossary
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