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Northern and Southern Lights.
Dec 13, 2005 NASA's Cassini spacecraft took this surprising photograph of Saturn's rings precisely edge-on. What's unusual is the strange bulge right at the edge of the rings. It's possible this bulge is created by a kilometer-sized chunk of material that's disrupting the ring material with its gravity. It could also be an effect of viewing the rings perfectly edge-on; normally faint material becomes visible when viewed at this angle.
Dec 13, 2005 The European Space Agency is developing a new thruster based on the same physics that power the northern and southern auroras. This new plasma thruster could eventually deliver more power than the efficient ion engines which have been installed on several spacecraft. ESA engineers calculate that a plasma engine could deliver several times more thrust from a similar sized ion engine, but still be as fuel efficient.
Dec 13, 2005 NASA's Spitzer space telescope has found more than 100 new star clusters hidden within the dusty areas of our own Milky Way. The powerful Infrared observatory can see through the dark dust that normally obscures our view of this region of the galaxy. The team of Astronomers that made the discovery found that there are twice as many clusters in the southern galactic plane (visible from the southern skies) as there are from the northern galactic plane. This may offer hints about the location of the Milky Way's spiral arms.
Dec 13, 2005 The brightest star in the nighttime sky is Sirius, aka the Dog Star. But did you know it has a White Dwarf companion called Sirius B? Unfortunately, the light from this burned out star is washed out by Sirius' brilliant glow. Astronomers have been able to use the Hubble Space Telescope's sensitive instruments to isolate the light from Sirius B and measure its mass by how its gravity bends light emitted from the star. Even though it's only 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) across, Sirius B has 98% of the mass of our Sun.
Dec 13, 2005 On Earth we have the Northern and Southern Lights, and there's a similar phenomenon on Mars too. But instead of sticking to the planet's poles, these faint auroras can show up anywhere on the planet; wherever there are patches of strong magnetic fields. Over the past six years, NASA's Mars Global Surveyor has turned up 13,000 aurora events on the Red Planet, and mapped their locations. These mini magnetic fields can potentially protect the planet's surface from the Sun's solar wind.
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