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Dutch Astronomer Christian Huygens was born on April 14, 1629.
Dutch Astronomer Christian Huygens was born on April 14, 1629; exactly 375 years ago. He was an influential Astronomer who improved on Galileo's original telescope design by developing new techniques to grind and polish lenses. With his improved telescope, Huygens was able to resolve the rings of Saturn better than anyone at the time, and realize their true shape as rings. He also discovered Titan, Saturn's largest moon. He died in 1695.
After the announcement of Sedna last month, the solar system's furthest object, Astronomers have had the opportunity to look at it better with the Hubble Space Telescope. Sedna's discoverer, Mike Brown from Caltech, was sure it also had a moon, but these new observations didn't turn anything up. This is unusual because Sedna's rotation takes 20 days instead of a few hours like most other asteroids - usually it's a Moon that slows down an object's rotation. Based on Hubble's observations, Astronomers believe Sedna is no larger than 1,770 km across (3/4 the size of Pluto).
One of the problems of sending humans to Mars will be how to let them explore the surface of the planet without having to carry tons of fuel from Earth. Fortunately, there's a potential source of fuel right on the surface of the planet: magnesium. Researchers from the University of Michigan have performed zero-gravity experiments that demonstrated that magnesium will burn perfectly well in a carbon dioxide atmosphere as long as you use iodine catalyst. It works even better in microgravity - Mars has 1/3rd the gravity of Earth.
The European Southern Observatory has released the most detailed images ever taken of the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. The images were taken using a new instrument called the Simultaneous Differential Imager (SDI), which was originally designed to help image extrasolar planets. The images show a number of surface regions with different reflectivity, including several dark areas with very low reflectivity, which could be huge reservoirs of liquid hydrocarbons. scientists will get a better look when the Huygens probe arrives in early 2005.
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