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ASTRONAUTS STUDY STAR'S ENERGY, PAY TRIBUTE TO FILMMAKER

Atlantis' astronauts Tuesday measured the energy emitted by the star nearest Earth, after taking a star turn at the Academy Awards with a videotaped salute to "Star Wars" creator George Lucas.

A Belgian instrument aboard the shuttle gauged how much radiation from the sun was reaching the atmosphere. Researchers hope to establish an accurate standard for this measurement to help analyze long-term trends in solar output and the Earth's climate.Even slight variations in the temperature of the atmosphere caused by changes in the amount of solar radiation the Earth receives or absorbs could mean drastic climate changes, possibly including droughts and little ice ages.

On Monday, Lucas, who received an honorary Oscar on Monday night, was hailed by the orbiting crew members "an explorer in his own right." The astronauts flipped through the weightlessness of the shuttle cabin an Oscar they took aboard.