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News briefs: December 1-2
Posted: Sun, Dec 2, 2001, 11:31 PM ET (0431 GMT)
  • The reentry of portions of a Proton rocket launched Saturday may have caused brilliant displays witnessed in portions of the United States and Europe Saturday night. People in the Midwestern US, from Texas to Nebraska, saw up to 30 fireballs that may have been fragments of an upper stage of the Proton. A similar display seen in western Europe may have also been debris from the booster, although a BBC report called it a meteor shower.
  • A Japanese remote sensing satellite will reenter on Monday, Reuters reported this weekend. The JERS-1 spacecraft is scheduled to reenter at around 4 am EST (0900 GMT), but the exact time and location of the reentry are uncertain. Two spherical propellant tanks, made of titanium and weighing about 7 kg each, are expected to survive reentry.
  • NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory has taken the first image of the planet Venus in x-rays. X-rays on Venus are emitted by carbon and oxygen atoms in the planet's upper atmosphere, 120-140 km high, compared to visible light, which is reflected off clouds 50-70 km above the surface. The observations were described as a "technological tour de force" because the planet, which is never more than 48 degrees from the Sun as seen from the Earth, is very difficult for orbiting spacecraft to observe.
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