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Two Telescopes Act as One.

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Investigators Needed Better Launch Photos

Jul 2, 2003 - Investigators working on the Columbia accident said this week that the launch photos from a key camera were too blurry to provide useful images. Sharper images of foam falling from the external tank and crashing into the wing might have given NASA more reason to take the situation seriously. The investigators recommended that NASA upgrade its camera systems for future launches, and consider additional views from airplanes and ships.

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Two Telescopes Act as One

Jul 2, 2003 - Astronomers have directly observed a hot disc of dust and gas surrounding a protostar using the twin W.M. Keck Telescopes in Hawaii. This is the first published science observation using a technology called interferometry, which combines the light from several Telescopes to act as a larger observatory - the twin 10-metre Keck Telescopes act as a virtual 85 metre telescope. The observation was of DG Tau, a T-Tauri object which is so young its centre star hasn't begun burning hydrogen; it's surrounded by a disc of dust and gas that could form planets.

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Image credit: NASA
NASA Creates Clouds For Experiment

Jul 2, 2003 - NASA scientists created false clouds on Sunday to study the near space environment in the Earth's ionosphere. Four rockets were launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, and they released a chemical called trimethylaluminum (TMA) at various altitudes: from 90 to 175 kilometres. These false clouds were visible for hundreds of kilometres and allowed scientists to better understand wind movements in the high atmosphere. TMA is non-toxic, and used as heartburn medicine and a water purifier.

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Image credit: NASA
Astronomers Find Seven New Planets

Jul 2, 2003 - A team of European Astronomers announced this week that they have discovered seven new planets, bringing the total of extrasolar planets discovered to 115. Six of the planets circle stars that weren't previously known to contain planets. All are gas giants, ranging in size from slightly smaller than Jupiter up to eight times the mass of Jupiter. They were detected using the radial velocity method, where Astronomers watch for back and forth movement of a star caused by interaction with its planet. There are currently 30 teams searching for planets around other stars.

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