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Three Gorges Dam Seen From Above.

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Image credit: ESA
Three Gorges Dam Seen From Above

Aug 4, 2003 - China's Three Gorges Dam was recently photographed from above by the European Space Agency's CHRIS instrument on the Proba satellite. Since the sluice gates were closed in June, the water levels have risen 135 metres, and the dam will begin generating its first commercial electricity in August. More than 600,000 people were forced to abandon their homes, and the same number again will have to leave before the waters reach their planned 175 metre depth.

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Image credit: NASA
Searching For Life on Non-Earthlike Planets

Aug 4, 2003 - A team of Astronomers from Ohio State University believe that we should be seeking life on a wider range of planets than previously speculated. They calculated that NASA's upcoming Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) should be able to detect habitable planets near stars which are much larger than the Sun. This opens up a whole new range of planets to look at. SIM was originally supposed to launch in 2009, but NASA is considering whether to use these funds to maintain Hubble past 2010 instead.

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Image credit: ESA
Local Galactic Dust is on the Rise

Aug 4, 2003 - New observations from the European Space Agency's Ulysses spacecraft show that galactic dust in the Milky Way is passing through our solar system more than normal. The Sun's magnetic field normally forms a barrier around our solar system that forces dust to go around us, but the Sun has reached the high point of its 11-year cycle, and the magnetic field is highly disordered - so the interstellar dust is coming through the solar system more directly. Although it has no direct effects on the planets, the dust impacts asteroids and comets producing more fragments, and may increase the amount of material that rains down on the Earth.

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Image credit: JMU
Largest Robotic telescope Begins Operations

Aug 4, 2003 - The Liverpool Telescope, the world's largest robotic observatory, began operations this week. The 2-metre telescope is operated from Liverpool John Moores University, but it's actually located in the Canary Islands, and run remotely. The telescope is especially suited to watching astronomical objects which change over time, such as Gamma Ray Bursts, supernovae, asteroids and comets. 5% of its time has been donated to the National Schools' Observatory program, allowing school children to perform astronomy research.

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