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Science fiction stories is to have multiple suns.
The European Space Agency's fleet of 4 Cluster spacecraft put a little more distance between each other, during a difficult repositioning maneuver completed this week. Three of the spacecraft were separated to 10,000 km from each other, with the fourth moving 1,000 km away from the third. By shifting the distance of the spacecraft, from 100 km to 5,000 km, and now 10,000 km, scientists are able to study the Earth's magnetic field at different scales. This maneuver also marks the fleet's fifth year of operation.
The analysis software that NASA uses to inspect photographs of the Earth is starting to recognize changing events on our planet's surface, like Spring thaws, snowfalls and volcanic eruptions. In fact, the software is now giving orders back to NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite on where it should be pointing its camera. The software has taken more than 1,500 photographs of frozen lakes and can recognize when the ice has melted. Software like this could be used to track changing events on other planets, like dust storms on Mars or search for ice volcanoes on Europa.
A backdrop in many science fiction stories is to have multiple suns in the sky. Astronomers have now found such a world, called HD 188753 Ab. Our heroes couldn't set foot on this planet, though, since it's a "hot jupiter"; roughly the mass of Jupiter, but orbiting its parent star every 3.3 days. The other two stars in the system take 25.7 years to orbit the main star (about the distance from the Sun to Saturn), and spin around each other every 156 days,
Astronomers have discovered a massive explosion in a Galaxy 11.5 billion light years away. This explosion is producing streams of high speed material called "superwinds" which are nearly tearing the Galaxy apart. These explosions are thought to put a limit on the amount of star formation that can happen in any galaxy, since these superwinds will blow excess gas and dust out into intergalactic space. This helps explain why key elements needed for the formation of planets and life were well distributed in Galaxies so early on in the history of the Universe.
The return to flight launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery was delayed Wednesday when a faulty fuel gage failed a prelaunch check. The shuttle actually has four of these sensors for redundancy, but they all need to be working for the shuttle to get cleared for launch. The launch window has been pushed back to Saturday, July 16 at 1940 UTC (2:40 pm EDT). When it finally gets off the ground, Discovery will deliver supplies to the International Space Station and test new safety procedures developed for the Return to Flight.
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