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Sunspot numbers have been declining.
We should be near the beginning of the Sun's solar minimum period; the point on its 11-year cycle when there's usually very little activity on its surface. Well, someone should have informed the Sun, because it's as active now as it can be during its solar maximum. Sunspot numbers have been declining as predicted, but this hasn't decreased the number of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. So, what's going on? Astronomers don't really know. Unfortunately we've only got about 25 years of satellite data to look back at to see the patterns.
Planets in the inner solar system suffered two devastating periods of asteroid bombardment. scientists are fairly certain that the early period came from asteroids identical to the space rocks in the current main belt between Mars and Jupiter. The second period is a bit of a mystery, though. scientists now think that there was a period at the end of planetary formation when the giant planets swept up leftover material and hurled much outwards, but also some towards the inner Solar System.
Researchers have had a few months to crunch through the data collected during Deep Impact's collision with Comet Tempel 1. The latest research published in the Journal Science used findings from three giant Telescopes atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The observations determined that as much as 25 fully-loaded tractor trailer-trucks worth of material was excavated out by the impact. The Comet seems to have a complex mix of silicates, water and organic compounds beneath its surface.
NASA has two new Earth Observation satellites in the final stages of preparation before their launch: CloudSat and Calipso. The two satellites will be launched together by a Boeing Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. They will be launched into a polar orbit, and maintain a close formation. CloudSat has an extremely powerful cloud-profiling radar, which can distinguish between cloud particles and precipitation. Calipso will be able to detect aerosol particles in the air, and can tell the difference between these particles and clouds to measure the amount of air pollution. They may launch as soon as October 26.
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