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VASIMR Ion Engine Could Cut Mars Trip To 39 Days 356

An anonymous reader writes "It would take about 39 days to reach Mars, compared to six months by conventional rocket power. 'This engine is in fact going to be tested on the International Space Station, launched about 2013,' astronaut Chris Hadfield said. The Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR®) system encompasses three linked magnetic cells. The 'Plasma Source' cell involves the main injection of neutral gas (typically hydrogen, or other light gases) to be turned into plasma and the ionization subsystem. The 'RF Booster' cell acts as an amplifier to further energize the plasma to the desired temperature using electromagnetic waves. The 'Magnetic Nozzle' cell converts the energy of the plasma into directed motion and ultimately useful thrust."

Surface Plume On Betelgeuse Imaged 51

BJ_Covert_Action writes "Astronomy Now is running a piece regarding some new, exquisitely detailed pictures taken of Betelgeuse, a star in the constellation Orion. Betelgeuse is classified as a supergiant star, and its diameter is approximately 1,000 times that of the sun. Two teams of astronomers used ESO's 'Very large Telescope,' its NACO instruments, and an imaging technique known as 'Lucky Imaging' to take some of the most detailed pictures of Betelgeuse to date. The new pictures reveal a gas plume on Betelgeuse which extends from the surface of the star a distance greater than that between our sun and Neptune. The images also show several other 'boiling' spots on the surface of Betelgeuse, revealing the surface to be quite tumultuous. Currently, it is known that stars of Betelgeuse's size eject the equivalent mass of the Earth into space every year. This recent astronomy work will help researchers determine the mechanics behind such ejections." Update — 8/05 at 13:31 by SS: Here's the original press release from the European Southern Observatory, since the Astronomy Now page has slowed to a crawl.

One Fifth of World's Population Can't See Milky Way At Night 612

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Cosmos Magazine: "Light pollution has caused one-fifth of the world's population — mostly in Europe, Britain and the US — to lose their ability to see the Milky Way in the night sky. 'The arc of the Milky Way seen from a truly dark location is part of our planet's natural heritage,' said Connie Walker, and astronomer from the US National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Yet 'more than one fifth of the world population, two thirds of the US population and one half of the European Union population have already lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way.'"

OpenOffice UI Design Proposals Published 252

An anonymous reader writes "Various members of the OpenOffice.org community have been submitting their first revisions of proposals to the OpenOffice.org Call for Design Proposals to redesign the user interface of Open Office. As part of Project Renaissance, attention is being drawn to the OpenOffice user interface, and it's 'user-friendliness.' Among the designs, is FLUX UI, which won an award at the Sun Microsystems Community Innovation Awards Program. Anyone can, and is encouraged, to check out the proposals (scroll to bottom of page) and leave your comments so that the designers can improve their designs for the final deadline for proposal submissions to the community."

The two most common things in the Universe are hydrogen and stupidity. -- Harlan Ellison