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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2004
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Martian surface
Full Mars panorama snap released
(Jan 12, 2004)


The US space agency's Mars rover Spirit has sent back a complete 360-degree panoramic colour image of its location on the surface of the Red Planet. The composite picture provides a startling glimpse of an alien world, one which Spirit is due to begin investigating early on Thursday GMT. A high resolution version of the image will help scientists decide which parts of the landing site to explore. The presence of carbonates may indicate that some of the rocks formed in water.

Read more. Source: BBC
supernova companion
First supernova companion star found
(Jan 12, 2004)


A joint European/University of Hawaii team of astronomers has for the first time observed a stellar 'survivor' to emerge from a double star system involving an exploded supernova. The second brightest supernova discovered in modern times, SN 1993J, was found in the beautiful spiral galaxy M81 on 28 March 1993. Ten years after this cataclysmic event, a European/University of Hawaii team of astronomers has now peered deep into the glowing remnants of SN 1993J using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the giant Keck telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They have discovered a massive star exactly at the position of the supernova that is the long sought companion to the supernova progenitor.

Read more. Source: ESA/Hubble

Red Rectangle
Space molecules point to organic origins
(Jan 11, 2004)


The most complex molecules yet found in space have shown astronomers how such organic matter is created. The evidence points to a rare type of star as the origin for life's building blocks. Two hydrocarbon molecules called anthracene and pyrene occur in a nebula called the Red Rectangle, 1000 light years from Earth, according to results presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Atlanta. A team led by Adolf Witt of the University of Toledo, Ohio, used telescopes in Chile and Arizona to examine ultraviolet light emitted by the nebula, and found the spectral signatures of these molecules. The two molecules contain 24 and 26 atoms respectively, making them about twice the size of the previous record holder, a molecular chain of 13 atoms. They are made of linked rings of carbon atoms, and belong to a class of molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Saturn V
Bush plan envisions new launch vehicle
(Jan 11, 2004)


President Bush, in his big space policy announcement on Wednesday, will call for replacing aging US space shuttles with a new generation spacecraft to get Americans back to the moon and on to Mars, officials said on Saturday. Seeking to give NASA a new mission a year after the shuttle Columbia tragedy and to provide a space vision for his re-election campaign, Bush will set a goal of returning to the moon by the middle of the next decade and establishing a human presence there as a stepping stone to an eventual manned mission to Mars. Bush will urge Congress to approve development of a new capsule-type spacecraft, called a crew exploration vehicle, capable of performing a variety of missions, including trips to the moon and the International Space Station, officials said. It would be launched using conventional rockets much like the Apollo capsules of the 1960s and 1970s and would have an escape system that the shuttle does not have. The new spacecraft would replace a planned orbital space plane that had been expected to follow the space shuttle. Image: Saturn V.

Source: Reuters

Mars panorama
Spirit rover ready to roll
(Jan 10, 2004)


The Spirit Mars rover has completed manoeuvres which should allow it to explore the planet surface within days. Twelve pyrotechnic devices were fired successfully, moving the craft onto its six wheels, Nasa scientists said. Concerns remain that an airbag used to protect the rover during landing could hamper its route to the surface. So mission controllers now plan to rotate Spirit 120 degrees before rolling it along what they hope will be a clear path on Wednesday.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mars base
Mars could become new focus for humans in space
(Jan 10, 2004)


After months of speculation it now seems that President Bush will announce next week plans to revitalise and refocus the US space effort, bringing back the Moon and Mars into reach of a manned program. It is an initiative he has been discussing for a while, but has waited until the successful landing of the Spirit rover on the Red Planet to make it public. Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said that after the Columbia tragedy Mr Bush made clear his desire for US space exploration to continue, but not in the same way. "The president directed his administration to do a comprehensive review of our space policy, including our priorities and the future direction of the program, and the president will have more to say on it next week."

Read more. Source: BBC

supernova remnant G111.2-0.3
First double pulsar discovered
(Jan 10, 2004)


An international team of scientists from the UK, Australia, Italy and the USA have announced the first discovery of a double pulsar system. They have shown that the compact object orbiting the 23-millisecond pulsar PSR J0737-3039A with a period of just 2.4 hours is not only, as suspected, another neutron star but is also a detectable pulsar, PSR J0737-3039B, that is rotating once every 2.8 seconds. Professor Andrew Lyne of the University of Manchester points out that "While experiments on one pulsar in such an extreme system as this are exciting enough, the discovery of two pulsars orbiting one another opens up new precision tests of general relativity and the probing of pulsar magnetospheres." Image: the supernova remnant G11.2-0.3 in which the double pulsar lies.

Read more. Source: Australia Telescope National Facility

future Mars base
Bush on space: Moon, Mars, money
(Jan 14, 2004)


President Bush is asking for a $1 billion boost to NASA's budget over five years to fund the start of a new American campaign in space intended to put a permanent base on the moon and land astronauts on Mars, administration officials say. In a speech prepared for delivery Wednesday, Mr. Bush is calling for a lunar base to be established within two decades and a manned landing on Mars sometime after 2030, an official said. The proposal comes after members of Congress and others have called for a new national vision for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, urging a human space initiative that would reinvigorate an agency wounded by last year's loss of space shuttle Columbia and trapped by expensive projects that limit manned spaceflight to low Earth orbit.

Read more. Source: CBS

supernova remnant E0102-72
Supernova, sun combo blamed for mass extinction
(Jan 9, 2004)


The second-largest extinction in the Earth's history, the killing of two-thirds of all species, may have been caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun after gamma rays destroyed the Earth's ozone layer. Astronomers are proposing that a supernova exploded within 10,000 light years of the Earth, destroying the chemistry of the atmosphere and allowing the sun's ultraviolet rays to cook fragile, unprotected life forms.

Read more. Source: CNN

HD179949
A planet that heats its star!
(Jan 9, 2004)


Stars usually heat up their family of planets, but in an amazing reversal, an astronomer has found a planet that is actually heating up its sun. Canadian astronomers reported this week that their study of a large planet orbiting a star 90 light-years away shows that the magnetic field of the planet is producing hot spots on its parent sun, a reversal of the effect the sun has on planets such as the Earth. The planet is one of 119 known extra-solar planets, objects that orbit stars other than the sun. The star, called HD179949, is very like the sun.

Read more. Source: CNN

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