Astro News Briefs: February 18–24

Sun Spews Massive Bubble into Space

February 22, 2002 | Our star unleashed a titanic coronal mass ejection, or CME, on February 18th. Containing billions of tons of matter, the superheated blast was captured by an extreme-ultraviolet camera aboard the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. Fortunately, the outburst was directed away from Earth.

The expanding superbubble, SOHO's "Pick of the Week," can be viewed at http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/pickoftheweek/.


NASA to Webcast Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission

February 20, 2002 | When the Space Shuttle Columbia launches on February 28th to make a service call on the Hubble Space Telescope, people around the world will be able to keep close tabs on the mission's progress. NASA will broadcast the crew's five spacewalks on-line at: http://www.exploratorium.edu/origins/hubble/.

What's more, astronaut John Grunsfeld will be keeping an in-flight journal throughout the mission. Visit SkyandTelescope.com to read his daily dispatches.


Mars Odyssey Begins Mapping Mission

February 19, 2002 | Mars Odyssey has completed its aerobraking maneuvers and has positioned itself to map the red planet's near-surface water and chemistry. The craft's instruments will undergo diagnostic tests over the next week. During the check-up, scientists will also begin to look at the problem-plagued Mars Radiation Environment Experiment (MARIE). MARIE was to measure how dangerous the interplanetary space between Earth and Mars is, in the hopes of better understanding the radiation hazards future crews would endure. However, the instrument failed in August 2001 and was subsequently shut off.

The first set of science images from the mapping orbit will be released on March 1st. More information can be found at the Mars Odyssey home page: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/


Global Warming Can Slow Earth's Rotation

February 18, 2002 | What would happen to Earth's angular momentum, if the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were to increase by one percent every year until the concentration is double its present-day value? Scientists led by Olivier de Viron (Royal Observatory of Belgium) think they have the answer. The added atmospheric CO2 would slow Earth's rotation by 11 microseconds per decade, resulting in a 0.00011 second longer day over the course of a century. The research appears in Geophysical Research Letters.

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