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Protoplanetary discs surrounding new stars.
NASA's Spirit rover has just completed a long hard slog across difficult Martian terrain to reach the Columbia hills. The short journey of just a couple of kilometres has taken Spirit months. Imagine if it could thoroughly analyze an area and then just pick up and fly somewhere new? NASA has awarded a contract to a proprosal from Pioneer Astronautics, which envisions a vehicle that could land on Mars, refuel with local materials, and then fly hundreds of kilometres to explore; repeating this process over and over again - the Martian Gashopper Aircraft.
Protoplanetary discs surrounding new stars seem to have the building blocks for rocky planets right from the start, according to new research from an international team of researchers. The Astronomers used the European Southern Observatory's VLT Interferometer to examine the discs around three young stars, which were similar to what our own Sun looked like more than 4.5 billion years ago. They found that the inner part of these discs is very rich in sand, ready to be clumped by gravity into larger and larger rocks until full planets form.
Cassini took this amazing photograph of Dione, one of Saturn's larger moons, on October 27 when it was 1.2 million km (746,000 miles) away. Voyager first saw the craters and bright, wispy streaks on its surface 24 years ago. Cassini is expected to do much much better, though, when it makes a close pass to the Moon in mid-December, 2004.
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