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A rare snapshot of a planetary construction site

Planets are formed in disks of gas and dust around nascent stars. Now, observations have produced a rare view of a planetary construction site in an intermediate state of evolution: Contrary to expectations, the disk around the star HD 21997 appears to contain both primordial gas left over from the formation of the star itself and dust that appears to have been produced in collisions between planetesimals.

Oct 24th, 2013

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Time is ripe for fire detection satellite

Wildfire detection today is much like it was 200 years ago, relying primarily on humans to spot smoke plumes or flames. UC Berkeley experts in fires, satellites and remote sensing now say that the technology is ripe for a fire-spotting satellite that could snap images of the US West every few seconds to detect fires before they spread with few false alarms. The cost would be a fraction of the country's annual fire-fighting budget.

Oct 22nd, 2013

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Planck satellite on course for safe retirement

In preparation for its final switch-off on 23 October, mission controllers today fired Planck's thrusters to empty its fuel tanks. The burn is one of the final steps to ensure that Planck ends its hugely successful mission in a permanently safe configuration.

Oct 21st, 2013

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Astronomers detect gravitational lens at record distance

Astronomers have found the most distant gravitational lens yet - a galaxy that, as predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, deflects and intensifies the light of an even more distant object. The discovery provides a rare opportunity to directly measure the mass of a distant galaxy.

Oct 17th, 2013

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