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A White Dwarf and Red Dwarf tightly orbiting one another.
Mission controllers have released the first panoramic 360-degree view of the Martian landscape taken by the Spirit rover. The colour panorama is a mosaic stitched together from 225 separate images taken by Spirit's panoramic camera. Not only is it pretty, but it's a handy tool for the team's scientists to get an understanding of all the terrain around the rover so they can start prioritizing their targets. One of their greatest interests is how the ground near the rover folded up like a carpet when the lander retracted the airbag. This was totally unexpected, and still a bit of a mystery. Spirit is expected to roll off the lander within two days.
New research from the National Optical astronomy Observatory may help to explain the formation and shape of many planetary nebulae. The culprit might just be Binary star systems, where two stars orbit a common centre of gravity. Astronomers believe that planetary nebulae are caused when White Dwarf stars slough off their outer layers, but they couldn't explain how the nebulae could form jets of material or unusual lobes and prominences. A second star orbiting the dying White Dwarf could whip up the outer layers into the strange shapes Astronomers see.
Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a new method for studying unusual astronomical pairings: pre-cataclysmic variables - a White Dwarf and Red Dwarf tightly orbiting one another. Before this new method, only 100 of these objects had been discovered, but this new method has turned up another 400 in data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. When the two stars get close enough, material from the Red Dwarf streams onto the White Dwarf and deposits on the surface. This heats up the White Dwarf and can cause it to explode as a supernova.
The European Space Agency's Comet chasing spacecraft, Rosetta, is being prepared for its trip into space... again. After a series of technical problems and missed opportunities, the spacecraft is now being targeted to chase down Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; it will reach the Comet and go into orbit in August 2014. The spacecraft will map the surface of the Comet in great detail and then actually land on the surface and provide high resolution images from the "ground".
Sea Launch successfully launched the Telstar 14/ Estrela do Sul 1 communications satellite into orbit over the weekend. The Zenit 3SL rocket lifted off from the floating Sea Launch platform on January 10 at 0413 UTC (11:13 pm EST January 11), and the dual satellite separated from the upper stage shortly after that. The satellite will provide television, data, and communication services to the Americas and the North Atlantic Ocean.
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