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August 03, 2011

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Begins Science Orbits Of Vesta

Sending Back First Close-Up Views Of The Large Asteroid

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, the first ever to orbit an object in the main asteroid belt, is spiraling towards its first of four intensive science orbits. That initial orbit of the rocky world Vesta begins Aug. 11, at an altitude of nearly 1,700 miles and will provide in-depth analysis of the asteroid. Vesta is the brightest object in the asteroid belt as seen from Earth and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth.

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Herschel Telescope Detects Oxygen Molecules In Space

First Time Molecular Oxygen Has Been Detected Beyond Our Atmosphere

The Herschel Space Observatory's large telescope and state-of-the-art infrared detectors have provided the first confirmed finding of oxygen molecules in space. The molecules were discovered in the Orion star-forming complex. Individual atoms of oxygen are common in space, particularly around massive stars. But, molecular oxygen, which makes up about 20 percent of the air we breathe, has eluded astronomers ... until now.

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