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