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Doughnut Around a Giant Black Hole.


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Image credit: NASA
Shuttle Flights Will Probably Resume in 2004

Jun 19, 2003 - Although NASA has made tentative plans to launch the Space Shuttle Atlantis some time near the end of 2003, it's more likely to happen in early 2004. NASA is expected to announce the launch date in about six weeks. Although all the technical fixes can be made by December, one of the new regulations is that the shuttle will need to launch only in the daytime, so any problems during launch can be spotted from the ground - but there are only two daylight launch windows available in December. All shuttle flights were halted when Columbia broke up over Texas in February, 2003.

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Image credit: Space Adventures
Soyuz Tourist Flights Beginning Soon

Jun 19, 2003 - Two space tourists will have a chance to fly to the International Space Station in 2005, at a cost of only $20 million each. The flight will include a professional cosmonaut pilot and launch on board a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The mission is being organized by Space Adventures, the company that organized the flights for Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth. The Soyuz will completely self-sufficient, providing all the supplies required by the passengers and even some additional supplies for the station.

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Image credit: ESO
Gamma Ray Bursts and Hypernovae Linked

Jun 19, 2003 - On March 29, 2003 NASA's High energy Transient Explorer detected a bright burst of gamma rays, and shortly after Telescopes from around the world focused in on the object; now called GRB 030329 and measured to be 2.6 billion light-years away. By measuring the afterglow of the explosion, Astronomers realized that it matches the spectrum of a hypernova - explosions of extremely large stars, at least 25 times larger than our own Sun. By matching the spectra, Astronomers have compelling evidence that there is some connection between gamma ray bursts and the explosions of very large stars.

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Image credit: ESO
Doughnut Around a Giant Black Hole

Jun 19, 2003 - Astronomers now believe that a supermassive black hole lies at the heart of most galaxies. In some cases, the area around the black hole is so bright it outshines the rest of the Galaxy by several orders of magnitude. Indirect evidence tells Astronomers that a thick doughnut-shaped structure of gas and dust (called a torus) enshrouds the black holes, but one had never been seen directly, until now. Using the European Southern Observatory's VTL Interferometer, which combines the light from several telescopes, Astronomers have been able to resolve the structures at the heart of Galaxy NGC 1068.

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