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University of Arizona tested a new Infrared camera.
When NASA's Stardust spacecraft swept past Comet Wild-2, it captured material from the comet's tail and revealed incredible details about the surface of the fast moving object. The few images that Stardust was able to take also provided some surprises. scientists anticipated that that Comet would be a dusty snowball, with very few surface features, but Stardust found impact craters, barn-sized boulders, and tall cliffs. This indicates that the Comet isn't the loose collection of material that scientists theorized, since it's obviously withstood quite a beating.
Astronomers with the University of Arizona tested a new Infrared camera on the 6.5-metre MMTO telescope, and produced an extremely detailed image of planetary nebula IC 2149. The object, located 3,600 light-years away, consists of a cloud of dust and gas shed from a dying star. The image is so clear because of the telescope's adaptive optics system, which removes distortion caused by the Earth's atmosphere - the telescope's secondary mirror changes shape thousands of times a second to compensate for fluctuations in the light.
Even though it hasn't reached its final operating orbit, the European Space Agency's Mars Express has delivered some amazing images of the surface of Mars. This featured image shows a portion of the Martian Grand Canyon, called Valles Marineris, from two perspectives. It's the first image to show the surface of Mars with such high resolution, in colour, and in 3D. Although it has so far failed to make contact with Beagle 2, the spacecraft will have several more opportunities when the lander goes into a special communications mode where it attempts to communicate constantly throughout the Martian day.
NASA's Spirit rover reached out and examined the Martian soil with its microscope instrument at the end of its robotic arm; this is the first microscopic image ever taken of another planet. The microscope can reveal objects as small as the width of a human hair, and will help scientists look at the fine details of rock to learn if they were formed by standing water. The rover will examine the same area with two other instruments: the Mössbauer Spectrometer to find iron-bearing minerals, and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer which identifies the elements in rocks and soils.
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