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    Plasma-Studying Probes Launched Into Space

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    NTDTelevision

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    At 4:05 a.m., in Cape Canaveral,

    [NASA Announcer 1]:(00:06 Male English)
    “Release.”

    NASA successfully launched its two Radiation Belt Storm Probes into orbit.The probes were part of a $686 million mission to study the radiation that encircles our planet.

    [NASA Announcer 2]:(00:22 Female English)
    “Lift off the Atlas V rocket and twin spacecraft on a mission to unlock the mystery of Earth’s Van Allen Belts.”

    The probes were released in the rocket’s upper stage on slightly different trajectories. Their goal is to study two giant donuts of plasma that surround the earth.

    Discovered in 1958 by James A. Van Allen of the University of Iowa, there are two concentric circles of plasma that change sizes along with solar weather patterns. They are filled with dangerous particles, so charged that humans would not be able to survive in such an environment.

    However, little is known about these donuts of plasma. Their movements are complex and seem to follow a magnetic field while also creating more fields. Their physical changes, which are often affected by solar winds, vary widely.-Though the inner belt is relatively stable, the outer one can grow and shrink.

    Satellites are generally sent into orbit either between or outside of these donuts. The outer belt can swell and encompass all the satellites, potentially disrupting communication networks.

    Each RBSP spacecraft is outfitted with a myriad of instruments, which, among other things, can collect data on the particles in the clouds.

    The two spacecrafts will undergo a 60 day test period before they begin their main mission.

    Seven northern cheetah cubs made their public debut during a photo call at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, north of London, on Wednesday.The septuplets were born around twelve weeks ago, and seemed to enjoy their first outing by frolicking and chasing one another around the cheetah enclosure.

    For mother Dubai it's the second litter, after she gave birth to five cubs in 2010. Only three litters have ever been produced in a UK zoo, and soon enough Dubai's cubs will be playing a vital role in the survival of their species.

    [Marie Brown, Deputy Team Leader, Whipsnade Zoo]:
    "Northern cheetahs are extremely rare, rumoured to be less than 250 in the wild so we're very excited for her to breed for a second time.

    She's (Dubai) bred once before. She had five cubs with her first litter, which was a couple of years ago, which was the first northern cheetahs to be born in the country so we're very excited that she's produced again and this time instead of five she's gone to seven so we're very pleased with that."

    The cubs are part of the zoo's European Endangered Species Programme which aims to increase the population of endangered animal species. While they will be staying with mum Dubai for the next eighteen months, Brown says they will eventually be transferred to other European zoos to take part in breeding programme

    [Marie Brown, Deputy Team Leader, Whipsnade Zoo]:
    "They'll feed off mum for quite a while but, yeah, they look like adults pretty much before we choose to remove them from mum which will probably be in about a year and a half's time."

    Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals, reaching speeds of up to 70 mph once fully grown.

    Hurricane Isaac makes landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

    For some families it is a chance to play in the swelling ocean and be buffeted by the fierce waves.

    For others, it is the perfect opportunity to get some impressive videos on their smart phone.

    Many though, are quietly praying it won't be another Hurricane Katrina.

    Authorities have urged thousands of residents in low-lying areas to leave, warning that the storm surge could reach up to 12 feet, flooding towns and cities in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.

    Rainfall accumulations, possibly as much as 20 inches in some areas, could also trigger widespread flooding.

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