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Sun's Flip is Letting the Dust In.


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Image credit: ESA
Sun's Flip is Letting the Dust In

Aug 20, 2003 - The European Space Agency's Ulysses spacecraft has confirmed that the Sun's 11-year cycle that causes it to switch magnetic poles allows interstellar dust to enter our solar system in greater quantities. The Sun normally puts a protective magnetic bubble around the solar system to push dust around us, but during this pole-switch, the bubble disappears for a little while. Astronomers believe this will increase the amount of material that falls on the Earth to 40,000 tonnes of dust a day - it won't really cause a problem; however, we may be able to see some more faint falling stars.

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Image credit: NASA
NASA Makes Safety Center a High Priority

Aug 20, 2003 - The director of NASA's Langley Research Center, Roy Bridges, says that the new Engineering and Safety Center is on track to be ready for operations on October 1, 2003. This independent centre will perform engineering assessment and testing on various NASA programs, and give employees a way to air their concerns without fear for their jobs. Staff at Langley expressed concerns that falling foam might be a risk to Columbia, but they were assured by the Johnson Space Center that the shuttle was fine - the shuttle was destroyed on re-entry killing all seven astronauts on board.

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Image credit: NASA
SIRTF Launch Delayed

Aug 20, 2003 - The launch of NASA's Space Infrared telescope Facility (SIRTF) was pushed back at least two days because high seas in the Indian Ocean are delaying a tracking ship from reaching its assigned position. The last of the Great Observatories, SIRTF will now launch on board a Delta 2 rocket no earlier than Monday, August 25 at 0535 GMT (1:35 a.m. EDT). The tracking ship will monitor the Delta 2's upper stage as it carries SIRTF to a higher orbit after launch. The spacecraft will follow the Earth's orbit and take pictures of some of the oldest, coldest and dust-obscured objects in the Universe.

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