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Hubble Identifies the Oldest Known Planet.


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Image credit: NASA/JPL
Opportunity is Working Well

Jul 11, 2003 - Opportunity, NASA's second Mars Exploration rover, has been in space for a few days now and everything seems to be going according to plan. The spacecraft has reduced its spin rate from 12 rotations a minute to just 2; enabling it to switch to celestial navigation using its star scanner. In fact, one of the first reference points Opportunity used was Mars - already one of the brightest objects in view. It's already over 7 million kilometres away from the Earth and on track to arrive at Mars on January 25.

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Image credit: NASA
NASA Has Too Many Astronauts

Jul 11, 2003 - A new report released Thursday by NASA's Inspector General says that the agency has too many astronauts for the number of shuttle flights. As of December 2002, 53 of the agency's 116 astronauts had yet to actually go into space because of fewer shuttle flights than originally planned; what was supposed to be 8 or 9 flights a year ended up being only five times a year. Ironically, this report was prepared before the Columbia disaster, so the loss of another orbiter will make this problem even worse. Astronauts selected for the 2004 class probably won't make it to space until 2009.

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Image credit: Hubble
Hubble Identifies the Oldest Known Planet

Jul 11, 2003 - The Hubble Space Telescope was recently used to identify the oldest extrasolar planet ever discovered. The 2.5 Jupiter mass planet was originally discovered around a pulsar in the globular cluster M4 way back in 1988; Astronomers detected a regular dimming of the pulsar's radio wave emissions. By using Hubble, Astronomers were better able to explain how the planet ended up around a pulsar. This discovery could reshape the current models of planetary development, which predicted that stars needed to go through at least one complete cycle to create the heavier elements that planets require.

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