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News briefs: September 6
Posted: Sat, Sep 7, 2002, 11:12 AM ET (1512 GMT)
  • A bright fireball seen by thousands in South Australia may have been a boulder-sized meteor, scientists said. The blue fireball was seen late Thursday night by people south of Adelaide, who also saw a smoke trail and heard two sonic booms. Australian scientists believe that the object was a meteor passing overhead at an altitude of 30 kilometers; remnants of the object could have struck the ground, although no fragments had yet been identified.
  • An Australian radio telescope will be pressed into service to handle communications with a fleet of Martian spacecraft starting late next year. The 64-meter Parkes telescope will be used to communicate with American, European, and Japanese spacecraft from November 2003 through February 2004, taking some of the load off of NASA's Deep Space Network. NASA will pay CSIRO, the Australian organization that oversees Parkes, about A$3 million (US$1.65 million) for use of the telescope as well as some upgrades to the telescope.
  • NASA has selected UCLA scientist Bruce Runnegar as the new head of the agency's Astrobiology Institute. Runnegar, a paleontologist and astrobiologist, had been director of the Center of Astrobiology at UCLA's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. Runnegar will succeed Nobel laureate Baruch Blumberg, the institute's first director, who announced plans last year to step down from the post.
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