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Asteroid or Comet strike that made Earth unlivable.
Something wiped out most of the life on Earth 250 million years ago. Evidence has been building that it was an asteroid or Comet strike that made Earth unlivable nearly instantly. But other scientists think that it wasn't instantaneous; instead, they found fossil evidence that the extinction occurred over the course of 10 million years. A group of volcanoes in Siberia spewed out gas continuously that set off a runaway greenhouse effect. Lowered oxygen levels in the atmosphere combined with intense heat would have hit life a deadly double blow.
Scientists have known for many years that Regulus spins faster than our own Sun, but Astronomers from Georgia State University have observed it more precisely and discovered that it's shaped like an egg. This massive star has 5 times the diameter of our own Sun, and yet it completes a rotation in only 15.9 hours (our own Sun takes a month to rotate once). This extreme speed gives Regulus a bulging waistline; in fact, it's spinning at 86% of its breakup speed. Any faster, and the star would actually tear itself apart.
NASA's Swift space observatory has seen its first Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB), probably the birth of a black hole. Swift detected the explosion on January 17, and turned to face it within 200 seconds - enough time to watch the explosion with its X-Ray telescope. This is the first time an X-Ray observatory has ever watched a GRB while it was bursting, and not just the afterglow. Swift is still in its checkout phase, so its Ultraviolet/Optical telescope wasn't ready to image the GRB yet, but it should be ready by February 1.
When Huygens descended through Titans clouds, snapping hundreds of pictures, it revealed a world with many similar physical features to our own planet: clouds, rivers, lakebeds, islands, rocks and dust. But Titan is cold, plunging below -170ºC; a temperature where methane can exist as both a liquid and a gas. Huygens saw a series of drainage channels running from brighter highlands to flatter, darker regions. It landed in a material that has the consistency of loose sand. Instead of rocks, Huygens is surrounded by boulders of water ice, and instead of dirt, the probe found hydrocarbon particles that settled out of the atmosphere.
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