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SMART-1 is continuing its long journey to the Moon.
The European Space Agency's SMART-1 spacecraft took this snapshot of the Middle East and Africa from its vantage point of 100,000 km (63,000 miles) from Earth. SMART-1 is continuing its long journey to the Moon by using its efficient ion engine to slowly raise its altitude. Operation of the engine has been so efficient, in fact, that the spacecraft will probably be able to save 25% of its fuel by the time it reaches the Moon. This will allow it to get much closer to the Moon than originally planned, and take much higher resolution images of its surface.
If you've got some dark skies, look up for a few minutes, and you're bound to see a meteor go by. That's because the annual Perseid meteor shower has begun, and it's only going to get better. The Earth began passing through the dust trail left behind Comet Swift-Tuttle on July 23rd, and we'll stay in it until August 22. The shower reaches its peak on August 12, however, when skywatchers should be able to see 80-100 meteors an hour. This is a good year for the Perseids because the Moon won't be too bright, and the Earth might be passing through an extra filament of dust for the first time on August 11.
The second of the Double star science satellites was successfully launched on board a Chinese-built Long March 2C rocket on Sunday. In an usual move, launch controllers decided to launch the Earth observation satellite a day early to avoid bad weather. Double star is a collaboration between the European Space Agency and China to study the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. The spacecraft reached its expected altitude, deployed the booms carrying its magnetometers, and seems to be functioning normally.
Cassini returned this image of Saturn's Moon Mimas, which looks surprisingly similar to the Death star from star Wars. Mimas is 398 km (247 miles) across, and that's not a superlaser you see, but a giant crater called Herschel, which is a third the size of the Moon itself. Cassini took this image on July 3, 2004, when the spacecraft was 1.7 million km (1 millions miles) away. Cassini will get a better view on August 2, 2005, when the spacecraft makes a distant flyby of heavily cratered moon.
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