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Spirit rover completion of first full year of operations on Mars.
The Chandra X-Ray observatory took this image of an unusual star called Beta Ceti. It's only three times more massive than our own Sun, but it radiates 2,000 times more X-ray power. Astronomers believe it's putting out so much X-ray radiation because it's at an advanced stage of stellar evolution called "core helium burning". For its first billion years, Beta Ceti was converting Hydrogen to helium through fusion, but it ran out of Hydrogen fuel and became a red giant star. Then it started to shrink again, and temperatures rose to 100 million degrees; hot enough that it could begin fusing helium atoms together to create carbon atoms.
NASA's Spirit rover celebrated the completion of its first full year of operations on Mars yesterday, and began its second by analyzing puzzling new rocks. Spirit is currently exploring a region of the Gusev Crater called Columbia Hills. scientists uncovered a completely new kind of rock in December, which look like they were ejected from a Volcano or meteor impact. On the other side of Mars, Opportunity is examining its own heat shield, which protected its descent through the Martian atmosphere. By studying how charred the shield is, engineers hope to improve their ability to deliver future robots to Mars.
Cassini made a relatively close flyby of Iapetus on December 31, 2004, and took photographs which show Saturn's third-largest Moon in unprecedented detail. Iapetus is best known for its two-toned colour; one hemisphere is dark, while the other is bright. Cassini passed within 123,400 km (76,700 miles) of the moon, which is 10 times closer than Voyager 2. One possiblity for Iapetus' dark side is that it passed through a cloud of organic material which painted one side. Another idea is that the dark material originated from inside Iapetus, and was ejected in a series of volcanic eruptions. Hopefully this, or an upcoming flyby in 2007 will give scientists enough information to understand it better.
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