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Earthshine used to test life detection method
...By imagining the Earth as an exoplanet, scientists observing our planet's reflected light on the Moon with ESO's Very Large Telescope have demonstrated a way to detect life on other worlds...
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Solid buckyballs discovered in space
...Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have detected a particular type of molecule, given the nickname “buckyball”, in a solid form for the first time...
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Steamy water-world gets the Hubble treatment
...Hubble Space Telescope observations of a 7 Earth-mass planet find an unusual water-rich world swathed in a thick, steamy atmosphere...
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A day in the life of ESA's Venus Express spacecraft
ESA PRESS RELEASE
Posted: 21 January 2013


Bright and dark cloud bands wind around the poles of Venus in this beautiful sequence tracked by ESA's Venus Express as it makes a rollercoaster orbit around the planet.

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The Venusian cloud tops during nearly a full orbit of ESA's Venus Express around the planet. The inset shows the corresponding position and relative speed of Venus Express as it approaches from its furthest distance of 66 000 km above the south pole, swooping down to 250 km above the north pole. The images were captured by the Venus Monitoring Camera on 7–8 January 2012 and are shown in false colour. Credit: ESA/MPS/DLR/IDA, M. Perez-Ayucar & C. Wilson
 
We join the spacecraft from a staggering 66 000 km above the south pole, staring down into the swirling south polar vortex. From this bird's-eye view, half of the planet is in darkness, the 'terminator' marking the dividing line between the day and night sides of the planet.

Intricate features on smaller and smaller scales are revealed as Venus Express dives to just 250 km above the north pole and clouds flood the field of view, before regaining a global perspective as it climbs away from the north pole.

The movie is based on images snapped by the Venus Monitoring Camera over a period of 18 hours during one of the spacecraft's 24-hour orbits around the planet on 7–8 January last year. It was compiled using public data from the Venus Express data archive.

The camera observes the planet in ultraviolet wavelengths, revealing intriguing patterns in the cloud tops, which ride around the planet about 70 km above the surface.

The observed pattern of bright and dark markings is caused by variations in an unknown absorbing chemical at the Venus cloud tops.

The clouds are driven by extremely strong winds, sweeping around the planet once every four days. By comparison, the planet takes 243 days to complete one rotation about its own axis.

Venus Express has been orbiting the planet since 2006. It carries seven scientific instruments investigating the surface, atmosphere and ionosphere of Venus.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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