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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2004
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Martian surface close to Spirit lander
Extraordinary mud-like substance close to Spirit rover
(Jan 8, 2004)


The rock-strewn floor of Mars's Gusev Crater blossomed into sharp view Tuesday with the release of the most detailed image ever obtained from the planet, taken by the rover Spirit's panoramic camera in a tantalizing foretaste of things to come. The composite image revealed a mysterious substance right at the rover's feet, which scientists described as a "strangely cohesive" clay-like material with alien textures. Spirit exposed the material when it dragged its collapsed air bags across the Martian surface to retract them after its Saturday night bounce-down. "The way the surface has responded is bizarre," said lead rover scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is managing the mission. "I don't understand it. I don't know anybody on my team who understands it... It looks like mud, but it can't be mud." The material was mashed and clumped, like something moist and viscous, and was broken away in pieces at some spots.

Read more. Source: Washington Post

comparison of squid sizes
Rare shark is second known giant squid predator
(Jan 8, 2004)


A little known shark that lives in waters off Antarctica is only the second creature known to science that hunts giant squid for food. Sleeper sharks even appear to target the biggest species of large squid – the colossal squid, which is about double the size of the shark. The huge sperm whale was previously the only animal thought to rely on giant and colossal squid for food.

Read more. Source: BBC

Cassini
Space, the busy frontier: Mars rovers are just the start
(Jan 8, 2004)


The year is just eight days old and already two widescreen dramas with all-star casts have been acted out in the universal studios. Mars has suddenly become crowded with two new visitors from Earth on its surface – Britain's troubled Beagle 2 and Nasa's Spirit. Plus, there's a third on the way and three orbiters in the skies overhead. And, even before the latest assault on the red planet, a little American spaceship called Stardust sped at 6km a second through the tail of comet Wild-2, catching a tiny sample of the ice and dust streaming from the celestial snowball several times the size of an ocean liner. But by next Christmas, the Beagle 2, Spirit and Stardust missions will seem to have been warm-up acts to a year of space spectaculars, devised by scientists and engineers who have invested decades of their lives to snatch a few hours, days or months of glory in the heavens. Image: Cassini at Saturn.

Read more. Source: Guardian

galaxy string
Giant galaxy string defies models of how universe evolved
(Jan 7, 2004)


Wide-field telescope observations of the remote and therefore early Universe, looking back to a time when it was a fifth of its present age (redshift = 2.38), have revealed an enormous string of galaxies about 300 million light-years long. This new structure defies current models of how the Universe evolved, which can't explain how a string this big could have formed so early. The string is comparable in size to the "Great Wall" of galaxies found in the nearby Universe by Dr. John Huchra and Dr. Margaret Geller in 1989. This is the first time astronomers have been able to map an area in the early Universe big enough to reveal such a galaxy structure.

Read more. Source: Goddard Space Flight Center

Beagle 2
Beagle 2 almost certainly lost
(Jan 7, 2004)


The Beagle 2 mission to Mars is almost certainly dead. A last-ditch attempt to contact the probe by the lander's mothership turned up nothing on Wednesday. The mothership, Europe's Mars Express orbiter, made its first pass over Beagle 2's landing site at about 1215 GMT. Scientists hoped the orbiter might hear signals from the lander, despite the failure of NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter and the 76-metre Jodrell Bank radio dish in the UK to hear any communications after Beagle 2's arrival at Mars on Christmas Day. But at about 1500 GMT, David Southwood, head of science at the European Space Agency, announced bad news at a press conference in Darmstadt, Germany. "We did not get any content of a signal or indeed a signal from the surface of Mars," he said. "I have to say this is a setback and it makes me feel really very sad."

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Martian surface
Red planet, blue rocks
(Jan 7, 2004)


The first full-color snapshots of Mars have surpassed all expectations and shown the so-called red planet actually boasts subtle shades of blue and ochre, NASA scientists said Tuesday. The image, actually a mosaic of 12 images taken by a high definition camera, is of such high quality that NASA was able to zoom in on details of stones and pebbles in the reddish brown sand in front of the robot. The 12-million-pixel image is "three or four times better than any previous mission," said Jim Bell, who is in charge of the "PanCam." The picture is so close to reality that "it is approximately the color you would see" with your eyes.

Read more. Source: Mars Daily

Martian surface
Spirit rover sends back color images
(Jan 6, 2004)


The robotic probe Spirit has sent back its first colour images of Mars. The pictures of the dusty and rocky surface are the most detailed ever obtained by a lander on the planet. US space agency scientists report that the rover is in excellent health as they continue to prepare it for its mission to explore Gusev Crater.

Read more. Source: BBC

Beagle
D-day beckons for missing Beagle
(Jan 6, 2004)


The European Space Agency is to make a last-ditch attempt on Wednesday to locate the missing Beagle 2 probe. Mission scientists are pinning their hopes on Beagle's mothership, Mars Express, which will fly over the presumed landing site at 1213 GMT. Numerous attempts to communicate with the lander through the US satellite Mars Odyssey and radio telescopes on Earth have all ended in failure. If Mars Express cannot find Beagle, the mission will be classed as lost.

Read more. Source: BBC

ISS
Space station springs a leak
(Jan 6, 2004)


The international space station is experiencing a slow, steady drop in air pressure, and American and Russian flight controllers are investigating possible causes of the leak. Mission Control notified astronaut Michael Foale and cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri about the leak just before their bedtime late Monday afternoon. "There's no action for you at this time and no immediate concerns," Mission Control assured the two men. "We'll continue to investigate this on the next shift and we may have some actions for you tomorrow."

Read more. Source: CNN

location of Spanish meteorite finds
Spain probes shower of fireballs
(Jan 6, 2004)


Spanish investigators are continuing their search for meteorite fragments following spectacular sightings of fireballs in the sky on Sunday. Police combed a number of areas on Monday – concentrating on an area near Leon and Palencia – but have found nothing so far. They received hundreds of calls at the weekend about loud explosions, tremors and colourful displays in the sky. Experts say the cause may have been a disintegrating meteoroid. However, they say the noise and tremors may have been caused by it breaking the sound barrier rather than crashing into the ground.

Read more. Source: BBC

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