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Deep Impact spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral.
NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, beginning a six-month cruise to smash a hole in a comet. If everything goes well, the spacecraft will reach Comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005 deploying an impactor that will carve out a large crater. The resulting explosion should be the equivalent of 4 tonnes of TNT, and could be bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye back on Earth. Deep Impact will be watching the explosion from a safe distance of 500 km, and should get a unique view of the comet's composition, and what lies under its surface.
The Hubble Space Telescope has helped to reveal a trio of massive, young star clusters which might have been formed by smaller clusters merging together. This tightly packed group of clusters were found in the active star forming region of NGC 5461 (located inside spiral Galaxy M101), which is located 23 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major. These super clusters can contain the mass of more than 1 million suns, and it's believed that they're the precursors to massive globular clusters. In NGC 5461, the various clusters are distinct, but interacting with each other, and will eventually merge into a single, super cluster.
New observations using NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellite have given Astronomers evidence that their assumptions and calculations about White Dwarf stars are correct. FUSE made detailed observations of Sirius B, which is 10,000 times dimmer than its companion Sirius A (the brightest star in the sky). You can only measure the mass of a star in a binary system like this; you can observe the two stars' orbit, get the period, and then find the sum of the two star masses. These new observations helped Astronomers determine Sirius B's size and mass within 1%.
One mystery has been puzzling Astronomers for a few years now; strange distant clouds of intensely glowing material located billions of light-years away. They've even struggled to come up with a name, and have settled for "blobs". Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, Astronomers have caught a glimpse inside the blobs, and discovered evidence that they surround multiple Galaxies which could be in the process of merging together. Under visible light, these Galaxies are unremarkable, but Spitzer uncovered that they're some of the brightest Galaxies in the Universe. If the blobs are created by galactic mergers, Astronomers will need to figure out why they're putting out so much material.
Engineers at NASA and the European Space Agency have calculated Huygen's descent through Titan's atmosphere tomorrow, and they think they know where it'll land. The probe will fall by parachute for about 2 hours from an altitude of 160 km (99 miles) until it reaches the surface. During this descent, it will be taking pictures and measuring the atmosphere with five science instruments. All these data will be sent to Cassini, and then relayed back to Earth. Controllers are hoping that Cassini will get a chance to take a panoramic picture of Titan's surface as it descends, slowly spinning, to help explain the strange formations uncovered by Cassini on an earlier flyby.
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