The Cassini spacecraft completed a successful rendezvous with Saturn's moon Titan today. This was the last pass before the European Space Agency's Huygens probe is sprung loose from Cassini on Christmas Eve. Information gathered during this flyby will provide an opportunity to compare images from Cassini's first close Titan encounter on Oct. 26.
Launch and flight teams are in final preparations for the planned Jan. 12, 2005, liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., of NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft. The mission is designed for a six-month, one-way, 431 million kilometer (268 million mile) voyage. Deep Impact will deploy a probe that essentially will be "run over" by the nucleus of comet Tempel 1 at approximately 37,000 kilometers per hour (23,000 miles per hour).
Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to celestial objects like galaxies and nebulas. These objects are so far away that astronomers cannot see their three-dimensional structure. The Helix Nebula, for example, resembles a doughnut in colorful images. Earlier images of this complex object — the gaseous envelope ejected by a dying, sun-like star — did not allow astronomers to precisely interpret its structure. One possible interpretation was that the Helix's form resembled a snake-like coil...
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