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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: August 2000
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Fresh evidence for watery ocean on Europa Aug 25, 2000
Alien communication, dolphin style Aug 24, 2000
Hubble survey sheds new light on brown dwarfs Aug 24, 2000
Mountains on Titan? Aug 16, 2000
Two Mars rovers for 2003 Aug 10, 2000
Best ever images of Titan show possible continent Aug 7, 2000
Largest life-form on Earth discovered Aug 7, 2000
Nine new planets and a secondary planetary system Aug 7, 2000
Planet found around Epsilon Eridani Aug 4, 2000
Microbes survive harsh UV in space Aug 2, 2000
Funding for new SETI array Aug 2, 2000
UK researchers cast new doubt on Martian "fossils" Aug 2, 2000



Europa
Fresh evidence for watery ocean on Europa
(Aug. 25, 2000)


Magnetic field data obtained by the Galileo spacecraft during its most recent close pass of Europa have provided the most persuasive evidence yet for a conducting layer – most likely a global, saltwater ocean – about 7 kilometers below the moon's surface. For more, go here.

dolphins
Alien communication, dolphin style
(Aug. 24, 2000)


Vincent Janik at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, has found that wild dolphins greet each other with individual whistle signatures. Communication between dolphins seems to be quite sophisticated yet no one really knows what they're trying to convey (go here to learn more about dolphin language). Janik has concluded that, in these signature whistles, dolphins are responding to each other by mimicking an individual's call back. Such interactions with learned signals are thought to be a first step toward the evolution of real language. In his report, published in this week's Science, Janik said that the greetings might not necessarily be a simple friendly "hello"; they could equally be an aggressive warning.

For more on this story, go here.

Hubble survey sheds light on brown dwarfs
(Aug. 24, 2000)


A census of brown dwarfs carried out by scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope provides the best evidence yet that brown dwarfs form in the same way as stars and are completely distinct from high-mass planets. The survey reveals that free-floating brown dwarfs, whose mass ranges from about 15 to 80 times that of Jupiter, are common in the Galaxy, with lower-mass dwarfs outnumbering their higher-mass cousins.

For more, go here.

Mountains on Titan?
(Aug. 16, 2000)


Researchers at the University of Arizona have suggested that a bright feature found recently near the equator on Titan (for earlier story, go here) may be a large range of ice mountains that is being continually eroded by a methane rain. For more, go here.

Two Mars rovers for 2003
(Aug. 10, 2000)


NASA has announced it will be sending two rovers to Mars in 2003. The vehicles, each of which is a larger version of the successful Pathfinder, equipped with optical and infrared cameras and instruments to search for signs of water on Mars, will be launched on May 22 and June 4, 2003, respectively. For more, go here.

Titan
Best ever images of Titan show possible continent
(Aug. 7, 2000)


Astronomers working with the 3.6-metre Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii have obtained the clearest views yet of Saturn's large moon Titan. They provide further evidence that a bright continent may straddle Titan's equator and be surrounded by a methane sea. For more, go here.

Largest life-form on Earth discovered
(Aug. 7, 2000)


Scientists have found what may be the biggest living thing on Earth: a fungus that is growing under and around the roots of trees in the Malheur National Forest of eastern Oregon. The enormous plant, a specimen of Armillaria ostoyae, or honey mushroom, is thought to have started from a single spore at least 2,400 years ago and now covers about 2,200 acres (890 hectares). For more, go here.

extrasolar planets
Nine new planets and second planetary system found
(Aug. 7, 2000)


A flurry of announcements about newly found extrasolar planets is to be made today at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly being held in Manchester, England. The nine new planets bring the total known to 50. A second planetary system, to join that of Upsilon Andromedae, has come to light with the discovery of two Saturn-sized planets around HD 83443, the inner one orbiting at the shortest distance known from its central star. Debra Fischer of the University of California, Berkeley, has begun to find evidence of smaller extrasolar planets. Looking at data for 12 stars around which single large planets are known, she is seeing patterns indicating that, in at least 5 cases, these worlds may have smaller siblings. Commented Greg Marcy of San Francisco State University: "We're now at a stage where we are finding planets faster than we can investigate them and write up the results." NASA astronomers will also be announcing evidence for massive planets imprinted in the dust disks of Beta Pictoris and Vega.

For more, go here and here.

Epsilon Eridani
Planet found around Epsilon Eridani
(Aug. 4, 2000)


A planet slightly more massive than Jupiter has been found orbiting the nearby star Epsilon Eridani at a distance of about 500 million km (300 million miles) – roughly the distance of the asteroid belt from the Sun. The proximity of Epsilon Eridani (just over 10 light-years away) means there is chance the new planet might be visible through existing telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. This landmark discovery was made by William Cochran, of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory and will be officially announced at an astronomical conference in Manchester, England, on Monday. It is exciting news for astrobiologists because the planet is at a conventional distance for a gas giant, suggesting it might be part of a solar system like our own, and the central star, though slightly less massive and cooler than the Sun is of a similar age.

For more, go here.

ATA target space compared with that of Project Phoenix
Funding for new SETI array
(Aug. 2, 2000)


The SETI Institute's plans to build the first telescope array dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has just received a massive boost thanks to a private donation of $12.5 million from Microsoft executives Paul Allen and Nathan Myhvold. The funds will go toward setting up what was previously known as the One Hectare Array but has now been renamed the Allen Telescope Array.

For more, go here.

Microbes survive exposure to harsh UV in space
(Aug. 2, 2000)


On July 26, two hardy species of microbe were sent on a sub-orbital flight, similar to that of Alan Shepard in 1960, to test their to resistance the vacuum and extreme ultraviolet radiation of space. Back in the lab at the University of Maryland, scientists found that the specimens of an archean taken from a hot spring in Yellowstone appeared to have been completely wiped out by the harsh ultraviolet, although signs of regeneration from a few survivors appeared to be taking place later. The other microbe, also an archean, Deinococcus radiodurans, fared much better. Although it suffered a 1,000-fold reduction in cell numbers during the flight, recovery was rapid after the return to Earth. Further research will be directed toward determining how the DNA of the organisms may have been affected by the UV exposure.

ALH 84001
UK researchers cast new doubt on Martian fossils
(Aug. 2, 2000)


Researchers at the University of Greenwich, England, have published fresh evidence that the supposed fossilized microbes in the Martian meteorite ALH 84001 could be crystals of calcium carbonate that formed inorganically. Aron Vecht and Terry Ireland argue in a new paper that the structures they generated in the lab bear a close resemblance to those seen in ALH 84001. For more, go here.

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