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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: April 2004
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taula
Astronomy study reveals ancient places of healing
(Apr 6, 2004)


Mysterious T-shaped monuments scattered around the Mediterranean island of Menorca were most probably places of healing, says an archaeoastronomer who has studied the orientation of the Bronze Age monuments. Each "taula" – named after the Catalan word for table – is formed by two massive stone blocks arranged in the shape of an upright "T". The taulas face an opening in a surrounding ring of stones, and all but one of the 30 structures on Menorca face roughly south.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

lunar base
Lunar base options divide experts
(Apr 5, 2004)


Scientists are divided about the use of the Moon as a base to develop ways to travel to Mars, according to reports given to the US government. Some have said the possibility of water-ice existing at the lunar poles would allow a moonbase to use the ice as rocket fuel for a Mars mission. Others contend that it would be too difficult to extract. And there is disagreement about whether the moon is a good alternative to space as a base for advanced telescopes. In January, President Bush redirected the US space effort sending astronauts back to the Moon and then onto Mars.

Read more. Source: BBC

Gravity Probe B
Satellite to test Einstein predictions
(Apr 5, 2004)


A satellite designed to test two fundamental predictions made by Albert Einstein about the universe is ready for launch, 45 years after it was first proposed, NASA and Stanford University officials said Friday. Since 1959, Gravity Probe B has overcome a half-dozen attempts at cancellation, countless technical hurdles and several delayed launches. The NASA-funded, university-developed spacecraft is now scheduled to begin its mission following an April 17 liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The unmanned, Earth-orbiting satellite is designed to test two of Einstein's predictions about the nature of space and time, and how the Earth and other bodies warp and twist the fabric that combines the two.

Source: CNN /AP

ISS
Strange sound is heard again by space station crew
(Apr 4, 2004)


The two men aboard the international space station heard a strange metallic sound again Friday, four months after being startled by it the first time. Cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri was talking to flight controllers in Moscow when he heard a loud drumlike noise coming from the instrument panel of the station's Russian-built living quarters. Kaleri and astronaut Michael Foale first heard the mystery noise described as a flapping sheet of metal back in late November. Neither the crewmen nor flight controllers were ever able to identify the sound, although engineers suspected space junk may have damaged something on the exterior.

Source: ABC News/AP

sunlight shining through tomb entrance
Ancient builders followed stars
(Apr 3, 2004)


Many Bronze Age monuments in Europe and Africa were erected with the Sun and other stars in mind, says Dr Michael Hoskin, a UK historian of astronomy. In one survey of 2,000 tombs he has shown how many were built to face the rising Sun – a symbol of the afterlife. A second study of stone structures in Menorca reveals they were set up to view the constellation of Centaurus. The Cambridge University researcher has discussed his work at the 2004 National Astronomy Meeting in Milton Keyes.

Read more. Source: BBC

365-million-year-old fossil arm
Fossil arm holds evolutionary secrets
(Apr 3, 2004)


A 365-million-year-old arm bone fossil found in Pennsylvania came from one of the first creatures able to do push-ups, an evolutionary step that was necessary for animals to move from the sea to dry land. When the animal lived, there were no vertebrates on dry land, and the oceans were a place of fierce, toothy meat eaters living a predatory life of eat or be eaten. It was into this hostile environment that a two-foot-long animal that was more than a fish and less than a true amphibian made its brief appearance in the fossil record, said researcher Neil Shubin.

Source: CNN/AP

Mazatzal
Spirit finds multi-layer hints of past water at Gusev site
(Apr 2, 2004)


Clues from a wind-scalloped volcanic rock on Mars investigated by NASA's Spirit rover suggest repeated possible exposures to water inside Gusev Crater, scientists said Thursday. Gusev is halfway around the planet from the Meridiani region where Spirit's twin, Opportunity, recently found evidence that water used to flow across the surface. "This is not water that sloshed around on the surface like what appears to have happened at Meridiani. We're talking about small amounts of water, perhaps underground," said Dr. Hap McSween, a rover science team member from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Read more. Source: Space Daily

asteroid impact
Double whammy link to extinctions
(Apr 1, 2004)


The chances that asteroid impacts and huge bouts of volcanism coincide randomly to cause mass extinctions may be greater than previously imagined. UK researchers conducted statistical tests to determine the probability of such catastrophic events happening at the same time in Earth history. They found massive releases of lava and space collisions should have overlapped three times in the last 300 million years. Details will be published in a future issue of the geological journal Lithos.

Read more. Source: BBC

exoplanet
'Fifty planets' could have life
(Apr 1, 2004)


Astronomers estimate there could be about 50 Earth-like planets with the potential to harbour life orbiting in other solar systems. They say that space telescopes will be capable of observing these planets and investigating them to see if they support life in about 15 years' time. Astronomers have recently discovered more than 100 planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. But they are all giant planets like Jupiter that cannot support life. Planets more like the Earth should, in theory, exist too. But they are too small to be seen using current technology. Professor Barrie Jones, of the UK's Open University, says about half the 100 or so planetary systems so far discovered could contain worlds with liquid water and possibly life.

Read more. Source: BBC

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