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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: June 2004
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Spirit 'blueberries'
Spirit rover sights 'blueberries'
(Jun 17, 2004)


NASA's Mars rover Spirit has discovered structures resembling the spheres its twin buggy, Opportunity, has found on the other side of the Red Planet. Like the so-called blueberries observed by Opportunity, the nodules Spirit has seen are weathering out of layered rock. And in a paper published in Nature magazine, US scientists have outlined how similar objects form on Earth. This may help researchers flesh out the role liquid water has played in the history of the fourth planet.

Read more. Source: BBC

octopus
Octopuses have a preferred arm
(Jun 15, 2004)


Most octopuses have a favourite arm, zoologists have discovered. This is the first time they have been found to show any bias when choosing which of their eight limbs is right for the job. The creatures use their trusty first-choice appendage when exploring a new nook or cranny, says Ruth Byrne of the University of Vienna in Austria. She presented the discovery on Sunday at the annual meeting of the Animal Behavior Society in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Read more. Source: Nature

Phoebe
Saturn's moon Phoebe revealed in stunning detail
(Jun 14, 2004)


Extraordinary new images taken by the Cassini spacecraft during its close encounter with Saturn's mysterious moon Phoebe were released by scientists Sunday. The must-see pictures show in great detail the cratered surface of the tiny moon. Phoebe's true nature is revealed in startling clarity in this mosaic of two images taken during Cassini's flyby on June 11, 2004. The image shows evidence for the emerging view that Phoebe may be an ice-rich body coated with a thin layer of dark material. Small bright craters in the image are probably fairly young features. This phenomenon has been observed on other icy satellites, such as Ganymede at Jupiter.

Read more. Source: Spaceflight Now


New Zealand meteorite
Space rock smashes into New Zeland home
(Jun 13, 2004)


A grapefruit-sized meteorite has crashed through the roof of a house in Auckland, New Zealand. The rock hit a sofa and then bounced back up to the ceiling, before coming to rest under a computer. "There was just a huge explosion and we looked around and there was just dust everywhere," home-owner Brenda Archer told New Zealand television. The meteorite was probably travelling at about 500 km/h (300 mph) when it hit the house, experts say. "I'm just glad no one was sitting on the couch because they would have got absolutely crowned," Mrs Archer said.

Read more. Source: BBC

ancient Chinese device
China had first complex machines
(Jun 11, 2004)


Craftsmen in ancient China were using complex machines to work jewellery long before such devices are traditionally thought to have been invented. Dr Peter Lu claims spiral grooves on 2,550-year-old jade rings must have been made by a precision "compound" machine. As the name suggests, compound machines comprise two or more machines with different motion that have been linked together to perform precision work. Dr Lu, of Harvard University, US, has published his research in Science. Previously, the earliest known historical references to compound machines come from writings attributed to Hero of Alexandria that are dated to the First Century AD.

Read more. Source: BBC

prime numbers
Greatest maths problem 'solved'
(Jun 11, 2004)


A mathematician at Purdue University in the US claims to have proved the Riemann Hypothesis - called the greatest unsolved problem in maths. The hypothesis concerns prime numbers and has stumped the world's mathematicians for more than 150 years. Now, Professor Louis De Branges de Bourcia has posted a 23-page paper on the internet detailing his attempt at a proof. There is a $1m prize for whoever solves the hypothesis.

Read more. Source: BBC

Rico
'Doggie, speak' has new meaning in language study
(Jun 11, 2004)


A clever border collie that can fetch at least 200 objects by name may be living proof that dogs truly understand human language, German scientists reported on Thursday. The dog, named Rico, can fetch a newly introduced object when asked, even if he has never heard the name of the object before, the researchers say. The findings, reported in the journal Science, may not surprise many dog owners. But they are certain to re-ignite a debate over what language is and whether it is unique to humans.

Read more. Source: Reuters/Wired News

ice core
Record ice core gives fair forecast
(Jun 10, 2004)


As long as humans do not mess it up, the Earth's climate is set at fair for the next 15,000 years. That is according to information extracted from the oldest ice core ever drilled. The Antarctic core is the first to reach as far back as a warm period with characteristics similar to our own interglacial. So it should help make more accurate predictions about when to expect the next deep freeze. The ice core, drilled from a feature in central Antarctica called Dome C, is around 3 kilometres long and 10 centimetres wide. Changes in the relative proportions of hydrogen isotopes in the ice layers allow scientists to compile a complete record of Antarctic temperatures going back 740,000 years.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

black hole
Black hole illuminates dust cloud
(Jun 9, 2004)


A University of Leicester scientist has played a role in discovering a giant cloud of dust which is illuminated by a black hole. Professor Martin Ward's discovery is only the second of its type. Nebulae are clouds of gas and dust which are usually only visible when lit up by stars. The new find was in a dwarf irregular galaxy known as Holmberg II. It is illuminated by X-rays from a larger than normal black hole. Professor Ward worked on the discovery with Philip Kaaret and Andreas Zezas from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

Read more. Source: BBC

false color photo of Endurance crater
Crater risk to rover 'worth it'
(Jun 8, 2004)


The Mars rover Opportunity is going to enter a 130m wide crater even though there is a good possibility it may not be able to get out afterwards. NASA has decided the scientific rewards of investigating the rocks inside Endurance Crater outweigh the risks of the buggy getting trapped. A test rover on Earth has worked out how Opportunity could best roll up and down the crater's slopes. The real robot will now be sent to what should be the easiest entry/exit route. If this is no steeper than what the testing runs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggest a rover can climb, controllers plan to radio Opportunity the command to go into the crater. False-color image shows mineral changes in the rim Endurance crater: basalts (blue), mixed iron oxide and basalt (dark green), and dust containing sulfates (yellow and red).

Read more. Source: BBC

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