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Mars Odyssey Doing Well
NASA has reported that the Mars Odyssey spacecraft is in a proper orbit, and already recording information about the Red Planet. In fact, the orbital insertion was so accurate the spacecraft entered the atmosphere within 1 km of the targeted 300km altitude - no further maneuvers will be necessary before the next aerobrake on Friday. In early 2002, Odyssey will begin mapping the surface of Mars, searching for subsurface water, and after that it will serve as a communications relay for future satellites.
Military satellite Launches from Northern Russia
The Russian military announced today that they launched a four-stage Molniya-M rocket from the Northern Cosmodrome in Plesetsk, Russia. The rocket was carrying a military communications satellite (also called Molniya) which will end up in a highly elliptical orbit. Unlike most satellites which are placed into geostationary orbits (where they appear to hang in the sky above one point), the Molniya satellites climb to an altitude of 40,000 km above Russia, and then swing past the far side of the Earth at only 470km. Several of these satellites are required for ongoing telecommunications coverage.
Nest of Brown Dwarfs found in Stellar Nursary
Astronomers using the European Space Agency's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) have uncovered a cluster of failed stars in the rho Ophiuchi dust cloud. This dusty region, located only 540 light years away in the constellation Ophiucus, is well known as a stellar nursary containing at least 100 newborn stars. But the surprise was in finding these brown dwarf stars which are usually too faint to notice. The space-based ISO operated from November 1995 till May 1998, and made 30,000 observations.
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SOHO Spots a Comet Plunging into the Sun
The NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) watched the final moments of a Comet before it crashed into the Sun on Tuesday. This latest image also shows a coronal mass ejection happening at the same time, and may cause some aurora Thursday evening. In six years of observation, SOHO has discovered 365 comets, making it the most prolific Comet finder in the history of astronomy.
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