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Evidence of Earth's early pummeling Jul 24, 2002
Ferrari Red Planet Jul 21, 2002
Asteroids and armageddon Jul 14, 2002
New link to complx life Jul 9, 2002
Bioastronomy 2002: July 8-12 Jul 8, 2002
Keeping track of exoplanets Jul 1, 2002

Evidence of Earth's early pummeling
(Jul. 24, 2002)

The first convincing evidence that the Earth was bombarded by a devastating and prolonged storm of meteoroids and asteroids four billion years ago has been found in the Earth's oldest rocks. The British and Australian researchers say there is no other conceivable explanation for new-found traces of an isotope, or form, of tungsten in 3.7-billion-year-old rocks from Greenland and Canada. The finding had been expected as several lines of evidence from Moon rocks and ancient craters on the Moon indicate the satellite was subjected to a so-called late heavy bombardment (LHB).

Read more. Source: BBC.

Michael Schumacher's Ferrari
Ferrari Red Planet
(Jul. 21, 2002)

Mars, the Red Planet, is about to get a little redder – a little red paint, that is. The European Space Agency's Mars Express probe, scheduled for launch in May/June next year and for arrival at Mars in December, will be carrying a sample of Ferrari's distinctive red paint in a 2-cm-diameter glass globe. Not surprisingly, Ferrari is keen to cash in on the success of its Formula 1 team led by Michael Schumacher. Tests are underway to determine how the paint will stand up to the rigors of space; if all goes well it will be installed in the spacecraft in September. The truly colorful part of the mission, however, will be the release of the Beagle lander, which will search for life signs on and just below the Martian surface.

For more on this story, go here (ESA). For more on Ferrari, go here.

Asteroid flies past Earth
Asteroids and armageddon
(Jul. 14, 2002)

What would happen if a small asteroid came down somewhere on the Indian subcontinent, or in the middle East, or in any other militarily tense part of the world? Military chiefs and NEO (near-Earth object) specialists meeting in Washington, D.C., last week expressed their concern that a nuclear conflict might be triggered if the impact were mistaken for a preemptive strike by the other side. Even a relatively small rock, say 10 meters across, could seem like an H-bomb going off. Earlier this month, an Israeli pilot flying an airliner over the Ukraine reported a blue flash in the sky similar to the type of explosion caused by a surface-to-air missile. Read about this here. It's now thought that the pilot probably saw an explosion caused by a large meteoroid entering the atmosphere at high speed. One of the conclusions of the meeting was that a new warning center is needed to gather information on asteroid explosions and make it instantly available to all governments.

For more, go here (Spaceflight Now) and here. (BBC)

N. reitogenesis
New link to complex life
(Jul. 9, 2002)

Researchers have uncovered the fossil of a marine animal, resembling a sponge or coral, dating back almost 550 million years. This is an intriguing time, just before the so-called "Cambrian Explosion" in which the first complex animals appeared. The fossil creature, named Namapoika reitogenesis, turned up in the remains of a giant reef in Namibia. Evidently it lived in fissures in the reef and consisted of a series of tubules, each a few mm in diameter. Its discovery supplies another piece in the puzzle of how nature made the transition from single-celled organisms to elaborate multi-celled ones. For more, go here (BBC).

Bioastronomy 2002 graphic
Bioastronomy 2002, July 8-12
(Jul. 8, 2002)

One of the big astrobiological events of the year took place on the Great Barrier Reef.

Keeping track of exoplanets
(Jul. 1, 2002)

It's getting increasingly hard to keep up with all the new discoveries of planets around other stars. Things used to be so simple when there were just the nine in our own solar system to worry about. And matters are just going to get more complicated – and interesting – over the coming years. For those who'd like to catch up with the latest tally and take a peek into the future of exoplanet-hunting, there's a nice interview with Debra Fischer of the California-Carnegie search team at the website here. With the 100th extrasolar planet now in the bag, it's time to take stock of how many Earths there might be out there. The latest estimate-30 billion.

Read about it here (BBC).


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