Status Report

Space Science News from NASA HQ 4 August 2000

By SpaceRef Editor
August 4, 2000
Filed under

Some cool news lately at :


Astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani.
The relative proximity to Earth – a mere 10.5 light years – means this is
the closest star yet to have a planet found circling about it, raising the
possibility that the Hubble Space Telescope may be able to obtain an image
of the planet. It is approximately Jupiter-sized, and nearly as far from
its star as Jupiter is from the Sun, unlike other exoplanets discovered to
date, based on techniques that are more sensitive to larger, very-close-in
planets. Perhaps this discovery increases the chances that solar systems
like our own are common.

BBC story:
exoplanets page:


In 2003, we plan to launch a relative of the now-famous 1997 Mars
Pathfinder rover. Using drop, bounce, and roll technology, this larger
cousin is expected to reach the surface of the Red Planet in January, 2004
and begin the longest journey of scientific exploration ever undertaken
across the surface of that alien world. We’re also considering launching
two identical rovers to different spots on Mars; we expect to announce a
decision about that next week.


NEAR has returned to an orbit 50 miles above asteroid Eros, after an ehgine
burn July 31.


Scientists analyzing some of the oldest-known rocks on Earth have
discovered for the first time a way to recover from the geological record
details about the evolution of oxygen and ozone in the planet’s early
atmosphere – two key ingredients that permitted and recorded the expansion
of terrestrial life. This would sure help answer a lot of questions about
our planet’s history, if it holds up.


The search for extra-terrestrail intelligence (SETI) received a big boost
this week, as plans were unveiled for a massive new telescope to scan the
skies. Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen has put up $11.5 million for
the project. Here at NASA we don’t do any SETI work, since Congress
canceled our program back in the early 1990’s, but I sure wish these folks
the best.

a good place to learn about current SETI efforts, and even do SETI at home
on your PC:


When our two great observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope and the
Chandra X-ray observatory, recently observed comet LINEAR (C/1999 S4),
astronomers received some abrupt surprises. Hubble caught a chunk breaking
off the comet, while Chandra has proven how comets produce x-rays. Now it
seems the comet has completely blown itself apart.

the latest:


Cluster-II second pair launch still scheduled for August 9.


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SpaceRef staff editor.