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News briefs: January 8
Posted: Wed, Jan 9, 2002, 10:22 AM ET (1522 GMT)
  • The Japanese space agency NASDA is planning to launch a satellite that will be used to track the migration of whales. The 50-kg satellite, whose name was not given in media reports Tuesday, will be launched in October. The satellite is somewhat controversial because Japan is one of only two nations in the world that still permits whale hunting, and some environmental activists fear the satellite will be used to aid those efforts.
  • A modest-sized asteroid passed relatively close to the Earth on Monday. The asteroid, 2001 YB5, passed within about 830,000 km of the Earth, a little more than twice the Moon's distance. While one report described the asteroid as "immense", it is thought to be only about 300 meters in diameter: small by many measures but still large enough to do major damage if it struck the Earth.
  • Famed physicist Stephen Hawking turned 60 on Tuesday. Hawking was only a graduate student in his early 20s when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, and was told he had at most a few years to live. Hawking, though, beat the odds and has made major contributions to physics since then, becoming a rare public celebrity in the field in the process. A scientific workshop and symposium are being held in his honor this week at Cambridge University.
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