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News briefs: November 1
Posted: Fri, Nov 2, 2001, 10:51 AM ET (1551 GMT)
  • A committee of the Brazilian Congress approved a treaty Wednesday between Brazil and the US that would permit American launches from a Brazilian facility, but with changes that may require renegotiation. The treaty would allow American launch vehicles and satellites to use the Alcantara facility on the Atlantic coast of Brazil, two degrees north of the Equator. Legislators, in approving the treaty, struck provisions from it that would have prevented Brazil from using revenues from US launches to develop its own launch vehicles as well as granting Americans exclusive access to portions of Alcantara where US equipment would be stored.
  • Italian scientists believe that a massive explosion in Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908 was caused by a small asteroid exploding in midair, the BBC reported this week. Researchers used seismic records, as well as eyewitness accounts, to determine the trajectory of the impactor and link it to known orbits of asteroids and comets. They concluded that the object was most likely a small near-Earth asteroid with a low density, like the asteroid Mathilde, that would have exploded before reaching the ground, creating the massive explosion but no impact crater.
  • Astronomers announced this week that they have failed to find a torus of material around the black hole in the heart of galaxy M87. Observations of the galaxy at infrared wavelengths using the 8-meter Gemini North telescope in Hawaii failed to detect the material astronomer as believe surrounds the black hole. Astronomers, who believed that the torus would be easy to detect using Gemini, are now wondering what else might be powering the activity seen around the supermassive black hole.
  • NASA general counsel Edward A. Frankle announced Thursday that he will retire from the space agency at the end of this year, after serving as NASA's chief legal officer for 13 years. Frankle is the third high-ranking NASA official to depart in less than three weeks, after administrator Dan Goldin and associate administrator Joe Rothenberg.
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