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Dead Stars Once Hosted Solar Systems

PASADENA, Calif., June 7 (UPI) -- Astronomers say the first images from NASA's new CloudSat satellite reveal never-before-seen 3-D details about clouds.

"CloudSat's radar performed flawlessly, and although the data are still very preliminary, it provided breathtaking new views of the weather on our planet," said Graeme Stephens, CloudSat principal investigator and a Colorado State University professor. "All major cloud system types were observed, and the radar demonstrated its ability to penetrate through almost all but the heaviest rainfall.

Just 30 seconds after radar activation, CloudSat obtained its first image -- a slice of the atmosphere from the top to the surface of a warm storm front over the North Sea in the North Atlantic. Unlike other satellite observations, the CloudSat radar image showed the storm's clouds and precipitation simultaneously.

"We're seeing the atmosphere as we've never seen it before," said Deborah Vane, CloudSat deputy principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We're no longer looking at clouds like images on a flat piece of paper, but instead we're peering into the clouds and seeing their layered complexity."

CloudSat, launched in April, is managed by JPL.