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Bob Berman's strange universe: The masked ball

August 2005: The sphere is the universe's most common shape. Why don't stars instead look like disks, cigars, or cubes?
Some of us will take breaks from this month's midnight meteors to look through telescopes. We'll peer at all sorts of shapes.

For untold millennia, people gazed at a sky dominated by two perfectly round objects. But now, through telescopes, we rarely see anything truly round. Jupiter's wild 28,000-mph rotation gives its equator a pronounced bulge. Saturn is even more oval. Venus and Mars currently show gibbous phases. Clusters, stars, galaxies — none of them looks perfectly round either.

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