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DULUTH — The Hubble Space Telescope is always up to something. Now, a German-led group of astronomers have observed a one-of-a-kind object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scratch that. Two-of-one-kind: a pair of asteroids orbiting each other that show comet-like features including a bright coma and a long tail. It's the first known binary asteroid also classified as a main-belt comet. The team's research was published in the journal Nature recently.
DULUTH — You'd think by now we'd know exactly how long a day is on Saturn, but Cassini's still working on it.
Ever wonder what's on the opposite side of the planet from where you live? China maybe? Nothing could be further from the truth. You wouldn't hit China, instead, you'd be splashing about in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia. Places on the globe that are diametrically opposite one another are called "antipodes." If you draw a straight line from your town directly through the center of the Earth, it will emerge at its antipode.
DULUTH — Astronauts conducted an emergency spacewalk earlier this week to replace a failed computer that controlled the solar power system, radiators and other crucial equipment on the International Space Station (ISS). They had been using a backup, so everything's thumps up now. I've read it's hard work working in repairs outside the station, but the views are second to none.
Mars would be much more clement if it still possessed a beefy atmosphere. Thanks to new measurements from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft, we now have a definitive answer on why Mars evolved from relatively warm and benign place to today's frigid desert where nighttime temperatures routinely plunge to 100 degrees below zero. Blame it on the sun!
Spring can be a comfortable time of year to get outside at night and watch the stars. When you do, don't be surprised if you have some company. Six astronauts will be flying over your head this coming week. That can only mean one thing: the International Space Station is back! Now through mid-April we're in for a series of easy-to-see passes during early evening hours.
Man, it can get cold on the moon. With virtually no air to speak of and a night that lasts just shy of two weeks, the surface temperature drops to around 275 degrees below zero. Dry ice or frozen carbon dioxide is toasty in comparison with a temperature of just 109 below.
In March, we dipped into the deep past, hungering to know more about the first generation of suns that formed after the Big Bang. Now, we look into the future at what the sky will look like thousands of years from now, when the cumulative motion of the stars will render many of the familiar constellations unrecognizable.