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Jupiter is only 400 million kilometres away.
Sojourner is the little robot that enthralled Earth in 1997. For the first time, a mobile construct of humans was being guided by humans on the surface of another planet. Andrew Mishkin is a systems engineer who worked on the Sojourner project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) during the inception, birth, and life of this little rover. He uses his notes, official documentation, unofficial recollections and friendships to present Sojourner, An Insider's View of the Mars Pathfinder Mission - a book that is an historical reference, a guide to systems engineering, and an insight into the bureaucracy of government science departments.
Want an easy way to find Jupiter on Thursday and Friday? Just look for the Moon. On March 4th and 5th, the Moon and Jupiter will be side-by-side in the sky inside the constellation Leo. And right now, Jupiter is only 400 million kilometres away - that's close. If you have a small telescope, point it at Jupiter, and you should be able to see the planet's four larger moons, dusty bands across its surface, and maybe even the Great Red Spot.
During yesterday's press conference, scientists produced four pieces of evidence to support their claim that liquid water once acted on Mars in the region that Opportunity landed. One of these is the discovery of the presence of sulfates, which are likely formed by the action of water. There are microbes on Earth, which use sulfates as their primary source of energy, so they can be largely independent from the Sun. Perhaps something like this could be alive just under the surface of the Mars.
For a few hours on January 13, 2004, some Astronomers believed that a 30-metre asteroid could strike the Earth in less than two days. The asteroid, named 2004 AS1, ended up passing 12 million kilometres away, but it demonstrates the difficulty asteroid hunters have searching for objects that could hit our planet. Had it struck, 2004 AS1 could have caused destruction on a city-wide scale. NASA currently has a program to search for asteroids larger than 1 km, and should locate them all by 2008. Other proposals have been suggested to search for smaller - and still dangerous - asteroids that threaten the Earth, but nothing has been approved yet.
Astronomers at UC Berkeley took advantage of the newly installed adaptive optics system at the Lick Observatory to get clear images of a massive star forming region. The system works by using a laser to create a false star in the sky. A computer tracks the atmospheric turbulence, and warps the telescope's mirror to compensate. The young massive stars that the team observed are usually too blurry when seen from the ground, so they made the perfect target for the adaptive optics system.
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