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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2004
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Cassini targets 'two-faced' moon Dec 31, 2004
Did animals have quake warning? Dec 31, 2004
Quake may have made Earth wobble Dec 30, 2004
Camera scoops amazing Orion snaps Dec 30, 2004
Human brain result of 'extraordinarily fast' evolution Dec 29, 2004
Virgin soars towards new frontier Dec 28, 2004
Scientists study orbit of newly found asteroid Dec 27, 2004
Huygens probe unleashed on Titan Dec 25, 2004
Mystery of Mars rover's 'carwash' rolls on Dec 24, 2004
Mars may be geologically active, new photos imply Dec 23, 2004
New galaxies teem with baby stars Dec 22, 2004
Monkey vocal ability investigated Dec 21, 2004
New clouds add to Titan's mystery Dec 19, 2004
Saturnís outer rings may be eroding Dec 19, 2004
Mystery of 'chirping' pyramid decoded Dec 18, 2004
Titan clouds seen to come and go Dec 17, 2004
Giant Mars rover will search for life Dec 17, 2004
Scientists find new Indian monkey Dec 16, 2004
Comet mission set for 2005 launch Dec 15, 2004
Mars rovers spot water-clue mineral, frost, clouds Dec 14, 2004
Cassini makes Titan return pass Dec 13, 2004
Spitzer, Hubble capture evolving planetary systems Dec 12, 2004
Lonely whale's song remains a mystery Dec 11, 2004
Nuclear space explorer to solve riddles of Neptune Dec 10, 2004
Frozen heavenly body hints at a warm heart Dec 9, 2004
Russian call for Mars volunteers Dec 8, 2004
'Brainwave' cap controls computer Dec 7, 2004
Hubble spots 'youngest galaxy' Dec 7, 2004
Artificial cells take shape Dec 7, 2004
Star's pulse of radiation is strongest ever Dec 6, 2004
Mission cleared for Titan plunge Dec 4, 2004
Rover data makes return a must Dec 3, 2004
Did our sun capture alien worlds? Dec 2, 2004
'Super-rocket' aims for January Dec 1, 2004
Ancestor's DNA code reconstructed Dec 1, 2004

Iapetus from Voyager 2
Cassini targets 'two-faced' moon
(Dec 31, 2004)

The Cassini spacecraft is set to make a close pass of Saturn's moon Iapetus, a striking world of two halves. One side of Iapetus' surface is as bright as snow, while the other is coated in a material as dark as tar. At 0130 GMT on 1 January, Cassini will swing by the frigid moon at a distance of 123,400 km on its closest approach. Some scientists think the dark material on Iapetus' surface came from space, while others believe it could have spewed out from the moon's interior.

Read more. Source: BBC

Did animals have quake warning?
(Dec 31, 2004)

Do wild animals have a sixth sense? Wildlife officials in Sri Lanka have reported that, despite the loss of human life in the Asian disaster, there have been no recorded animal deaths. Waves from the worst tsunami in memory sent floodwater surging up to 3.5km (two miles) inland to the island's biggest wildlife reserve. Many tourists drowned but, to the surprise of officials, no dead animals have been found. It has highlighted claims that animals may possess a sixth sense about danger.

Read more. Source: BBC

Quake may have made Earth wobble
(Dec 30, 2004)

The deadly Asian earthquake may have permanently accelerated the Earth's rotation, shortening days by a fraction of a second and caused the planet to wobble on its axis, US scientists said Tuesday. Richard Gross, a geophysicist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, theorized that a shift of mass toward the Earth's center during the quake Sunday caused the planet to spin 3 microseconds, or millionths of a second, faster and to tilt about an inch on its axis.

Source: CNN/Reuters

Orion Nebula
Camera scoops amazing Orion snaps
(Dec 30, 2004)

Astronomers have produced some amazing pictures using a remarkable new instrument on the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope in Hawaii. The Wide Field Camera (WFCAM), built at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, is the world's most powerful infrared survey camera. WFCAM was trained on a region of star formation in the Orion constellation about 1,500 light-years away. The stunning images cover an area of sky that was unobtainable before.

Read more. Source: BBC

human brain
Human brain result of 'extraordinarily fast' evolution
(Dec 29, 2004)

The sophistication of the human brain is not simply the result of steady evolution, according to new research. Instead, humans are truly privileged animals with brains that have developed in a type of extraordinarily fast evolution that is unique to the species. "Simply put, evolution has been working very hard to produce us humans," said Bruce Lahn, an assistant professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "Our study offers the first genetic evidence that humans occupy a unique position in the tree of life."

Read more. Source: Guardian

X-prize art
Virgin soars towards new frontier
(Dec 28, 2004)

The crowds are long gone from California's Mojave Airport and Burt Rutan's team is back at work on a new flying machine. Like SpaceShipOne, the homebuilt rocketship that claimed a £5.2m cash prize for twice reaching suborbital space, Rutan's next creation will travel beyond Earth's atmosphere as well. SpaceShipTwo (SS2), however, will have more than a single occupant. Rutan is toying with designs to accommodate up to eight passengers at a time, with enough upgrades to warrant a ticket in the £104,000 (£200,000) price range.

Read more. Source: BBC

asteroid impact
Scientists study orbit of newly found asteroid
(Dec 27, 2004)

There's a 1-in-300 chance that a recently discovered asteroid, believed to be about 1,300 feet long, could hit Earth in 2029, a NASA scientist said Thursday, but he added that the perceived risk probably will be eliminated once astronomers get more detail about its orbit. There have been only a limited number of sightings of Asteroid 2004 MN4, which has been given an initial rating of 2 on the 10-point Torino Impact Hazard Scale used by astronomers to predict asteroid or comet impacts, said Donald Yeomans, manager of the Near Earth Object Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. No previously observed asteroid has been graded higher than 1.

Source: CNN

Huygens probe unleashed on Titan
(Dec 25, 2004)

The Huygens probe has been released and is heading for Saturn's largest moon, Titan, scientists have confirmed. A signal that the robot lab had separated from its mothership, Cassini, was received by the US space agency at its Jet Propulsion lab in Pasadena. Huygens is now in a sleep mode and will take three weeks to reach the smog-shrouded satellite of Saturn. When it enters Titan's atmosphere, the probe will have just a few hours to collect data before its batteries die.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mars Exploration Rover
Mystery of Mars rover's 'carwash' rolls on
(Dec 24, 2004)

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity seems to have stumbled into something akin to a carwash that has left its solar panels much cleaner than those of its twin rover, Spirit. A Martian carwash would account for a series of unexpected boosts in the electrical power produced by Opportunity's solar panels. The rovers landed on Mars in January 2004 with solar cells capable of providing more than 900 watt-hours of electricity per day. Spirit's output has dropped to about 400 watt-hours, partly because Martian dust has caked its solar panels. Opportunity's output also declined at first – to around 500 watt-hours – but over the past six months it has regained power. Lately, its solar cells have been delivering just over 900 watt-hours.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Olympus Mons
Mars may be geologically active, new photos imply
(Dec 23, 2004)

Mars, the red planet, may not after all be the dead planet. New research today by European scientists suggests that volcanoes on Mars last erupted only 2 million years ago and could erupt again. And dramatic photographs by a high-resolution stereoscopic camera aboard the European spacecraft Mars Express, in the journal Nature, suggest that glacial ice could survive on the western scarp of Olympus Mons, the biggest volcano in the solar system. Last week, Nature's US rival Science named the confirmation of water on Mars as the scientific breakthrough of 2004. But the revelation that Mars could be geologically "alive" is even more dramatic.

Read more. Source: Guardian

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