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Mira stars are a special class of variable Red Giants.
Mira stars are a special class of variable Red Giants which pulsate. Over the course of 80-1,000 days, a Mira star can vary in brightness by a factor of 10 times or more during the cycle. An international team of Astronomers has observed the environments of five Mira stars, and found that they're surrounded by a shell of water vapour and carbon monoxide; this makes them seem larger than they actually are. These new observations bring the size of Mira stars in line with mathematical models that predict their size and composition. By observing Mira stars, Astronomers will get a preview of the fate that could befall our own Sun when it bloats up to become a red giant in a few billion years.
Although Hurricane Ivan spared NASA's Kennedy Space Center, several of the agencies other facilities weren't so lucky. The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans were much closer to the point where the enormous storm came ashore on the US Gulf Coast. Stennis is where the space shuttle's engines are tested, so they were secured for the storm; one was returned to its container, another was wrapped in plastic, and two development engines were secured on their test stands. Michoud is where the shuttle's external fuel tanks are manufactured and assembled; these were secured, and assembly equipment was moved inside. NASA will get an idea of the damage later today or tomorrow, when its employees begin returning to work.
Researchers from Australia have demonstrated that an observatory in Antarctica can produce images of the sky several times better than Telescopes at mid latitudes. A team of Astronomers from the University of New South Wales made observations using a robotic telescope in an observatory called "Dome C" on the Antarctic Plateau, 3250 metres (10,600 feet) above sea level. They found that the sharpness of images was three times better than the best sites used by Astronomers in other locations. An 8m telescope here would function like a 25m telescope anywhere else - at a fraction of the cost of a space-based observatory.
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