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Sun and solar system embedded in a pancake of stars.

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Sun and Solar System.
Sun and solar system are embedded in a broad pancake of stars.

Cassini Sees Lightning on Saturn.

In orbit around Saturn for more than a month now, the Cassini spacecraft has been sending back mountains of scientific data. It's now detected flashes of lightning, a new radiation belt, and a glow around Titan, Saturn's largest moon. The spacecraft's radio and plasma wave science instrument is detecting the lighting, which varies from day to day; a dramatically different situation from what the Voyagers found 20 years ago. The new radiation belt is just above Saturn's cloud tops and extends around the planet, yet the radiation particles are able to "jump over" the planet's rings.

Proton Launches Amazonas Satellite.

A Russian Proton rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Wednesday, carrying a Brazilian Amazonas satellite into orbit. The rocket launched at 2232 UTC (6:32 pm EDT), and its Breeze M upper stage placed the satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit 9 hours, 11 minutes later. When it reaches its final position of 61-degrees West, it will provide broadcast television services to countries on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Da Vinci Project Announces X Prize Attempt.

The Canadian da Vinci Project has informed the Ansari X Prize of its plans to launch its Wild Fire rocket on October 2, 2004. This is the second team to announce a launch attempt, after Scaled Composite revealed they'll be launching SpaceShipOne on September 29. Wild Fire will be carried to altitude in Saskatchewan on board a giant balloon; it will detach and then fly up to 100 km (62.5 miles). The team announced a new sponsor, Internet casino GoldenPalace.com, which has provided cash in exchange for advertising.

Spiral Galaxies in the Universe.

Our Sun and solar system are embedded in a broad pancake of stars deep within the disk of the Milky Way galaxy. Even from a distance, it is impossible to see our galaxy's large-scale features other than the disk.

The next best thing is to look farther out into the universe at Galaxies that are similar in shape and structure to our home galaxy. Other spiral Galaxies like NGC 3949, pictured in the Hubble image, fit the bill. Like our Milky Way, this Galaxy has a blue disk of young stars peppered with bright pink star-birth regions. In contrast to the blue disk, the bright central bulge is made up of mostly older, redder stars.

volcano Olympus Mons.

This perspective image is of the flanks of Olympus Mons; located on Mars, this Volcano is the tallest mountain in the Solar System. It was taken by the ESA's Mars Express spacecraft. The escarpment in the image rises 7,000 metres from the surface of Mars, and you can see the deposits around the base of the escarpment, which scientists have dubbed "aureole"; Latin for "circle of light". These aureole deposits are a mystery, but one popular theory is that they're landslides of material shed from the sides of the volcano; perhaps connected with glacial activity.

Gamma Ray Burst Spotted.

The European Space Agency's Integral probe detected a gamma ray burst in December 2003, which has now been studied by a host of Telescopes and instruments for several months. Researchers now believe that the event, called GRB 031203, was the closest burst on record; it went off in a Galaxy only 1.3 billion light-years away. Even though it was much closer, it wasn't much brighter than other bursts, and Astronomers believe this could be the first discovery of a whole new class of gamma ray bursts which aren't as energetic, but could be much more common.

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