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Comets Take More Damage Than We Thought.

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Image credit: NASA
Comets Take More Damage Than We Thought

Aug 7, 2003 - Astronomers used to believe that comets were relics of an early solar system, largely unchanged since the time they were created billions of years ago. But a new study from the Southwest Research Institute indicates that comets might not have had it so easy. Over the course of billions of years, they've been bathed in many kinds of radiation; sandblasted by interstellar dust; heated by stars and supernovae; and fragmented by many collisions. Deep core drilling will probably be necessary to get more realistic data about the state of the early solar system.

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Image credit: NASA/JPL
Malfunctioning Instrument on Spirit

Aug 7, 2003 - An instrument on board Spirit, one of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, has malfunctioned, potentially limiting the amount of data that can be retrieved from the surface of Mars. The instrument is called a Mossbauer spectrometer, and it's designed to determine the presence and abundance of iron-bearing minerals in the rocks of Mars. If the glitch can't be worked out, it will still be able to detect the mineral, just not its quantity. Engineers still have several months to get this fixed before Spirit arrives at Mars on January 3.

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Image credit: NASA
Asteroids Named for Lost Astronauts

Aug 7, 2003 - Seven asteroids were recently renamed to honour the astronauts of the Space Shuttle Columbia. The asteroids are all 5 to 7 km long, and were discovered on the nights of July 19-21, 2001 at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego by Astronomer Eleanor F. Helin. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory proposed the idea, and it was recently approved by the International Astronomical Union, which is responsible for maintaining the names of celestial objects.

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Image credit: Hubble
Hubble Looks at Our Closest Cluster

Aug 7, 2003 - The newest image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals one of the nearest globular star clusters, NGC 6397, located only 8,200 light years away in the constellation Ara. The stars in this cluster are packed one million times more densely than our own galactic neighborhood; collisions between stars occur every few million years. Two colliding stars may merge to become a "blue straggler"; a bright, young hot star that looks very different from the rest of the stars in the cluster.

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