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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: March 2004
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Enigma of Namibia's 'fairy circles' Mar 31, 2004
Ocean waves forecast for Saturn's moon Titan Mar 31, 2004
Evolved DNA stitches itself up Mar 31, 2004
Andromeda yields cache of stellar black holes Mar 30, 2004
Private space race nears finish line Mar 29, 2004
Methane on Mars: coverage continues Mar 29, 2004
Earth on the 'WIMP highway' Mar 29, 2004
Possible signs of life detected on Mars Mar 28, 2004
NASA Mach 7 mission accomplished Mar 27, 2004
Martian spiral mystery at poles explained Mar 26, 2004
Radio search for ET draws a blank Mar 25, 2004
Theory of matter may need rethink Mar 25, 2004
Life on Mars - but 'we sent it' Mar 25, 2004
Whales' sound fishing trick Mar 25, 2004
NASA considers impact alert plan Mar 24, 2004
Mars rover sits on ancient beach Mar 23, 2004
NASA's rover climbs out of Martian crater Mar 23, 2004
Io's clues to early life on Earth Mar 22, 2004
Microsoft man funds ET search Mar 22, 2004
New imagery of comet released from Stardust Mar 21, 2004
Mars rovers to embark on final mission Mar 20, 2004
Lunar mountain has eternal light Mar 19, 2004
'Life chip' ready for 2009 Mars missions Mar 19, 2004
Space rock makes closest approach Mar 18, 2004
UFO streaks through Martian sky Mar 18, 2004
No Moon, no life on Earth, suggests theory Mar 18, 2004
Rover inspects Martian dune Mar 18, 2004
Mystery of Milky Way's gamma rays solved Mar 18, 2004
Martian soil is 'same everywhere' Mar 18, 2004
Plenty of icy water at Mars south pole, scientists say Mar 17, 2004
Mystery of the Martian 'blueberries' solved Mar 17, 2004
Mars mission criticized by watchdog Mar 17, 2004
Sun's massive explosion upgraded Mar 16, 2004
Early human marks are 'symbols' Mar 16, 2004
New planet may have a moon Mar 16, 2004
Plan to melt through Europa's ice Mar 15, 2004
Astronomers find new planet or planetoid Mar 15, 2004
Clumps seen in Saturn's rings Mar 14, 2004
Mystery of Uranus and Neptune magnetic fields solved? Mar 13, 2004
Asteroid targets picked for Rosetta Mar 12, 2004
Opportunity views Martian eclipses Mar 12, 2004
NASA rover looks into the abyss Mar 11, 2004
Super telescope to probe deep space Mar 11, 2004
'God particle' may have been seen Mar 10, 2004
X-rays from Saturn pose puzzles Mar 10, 2004
Hubble's deep view of the cosmos Mar 9, 2004
Mars rovers' lifetime boosted Mar 9, 2004
Rover fails to dent Martian rock Mar 9, 2004
Beagle descent possibly too fast Mar 8, 2004
The great 'bunny' chase at Mars rover landing site Mar 8, 2004
How the little green men met their makers Mar 7, 2004
Did a comet trigger the Great Chicago Fire of 1871? Mar 7, 2004
Another Mars rover finds more evidence of water Mar 6, 2004
How much water on Mars? Mar 5, 2004
Mars volcano shows 'water flow' Mar 5, 2004
Scientists lobby on 'Beagle pups' Mar 4, 2004
The chemistry of Mars Mar 3, 2004
NASA: Liquid water once on Mars Mar 2, 2004
Rosetta heads for comet Mar 2, 2004
Dinosaur impact theory challenged Mar 1, 2004
VLT smashes record for farthest known galaxy Mar 1, 2004


Namibian fairy circle
Enigma of Namibia's 'fairy circles'
(Mar 31, 2004)


South African botanists say they have failed to explain the mysterious round patches of bare sandy soil found in grassland on Namibia's coastal fringe. They looked into possible causes of the "fairy circles" – radioactive soil, toxic proteins left by poisonous plants, and termites eating the seeds. But tests failed to support any of these theories for the rings which are 2-10 metres in diameter. For now, they say, they are left with "fairies" to explain the phenomenon.

Read more. Source: BBC

Huygens on Titan
Ocean waves forecast for Saturn's moon Titan
(Mar 31, 2004)


When the European Huygens probe on the Cassini space mission parachutes down through the opaque smoggy atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan early next year, it may find itself splashing into a sea of liquid hydrocarbons. In what is probably the first piece of "extraterrestrial oceanography" ever carried out, Dr Nadeem Ghafoor of Surrey Satellite Technology and Professor John Zarnecki of the Open University, with Drs Meric Srokecz and Peter Challenor of the Southampton Oceanography Centre, calculated how any seas on Titan would compare with Earth's oceans. Their results predict that waves driven by the wind would be up to 7 times higher but would move more slowly and be much farther apart.

Read more. Source: Spaceflight Now/RAS

DNA
Evolved DNA stitches itself up
(Mar 31, 2004)


Researchers have managed to create bits of DNA that can stitch themselves together without a helping hand from other molecules. By contrast, natural DNA needs enzymes to stitch itself up, correct mutations, or make copies of itself. The creation of this super-capable DNA suggests that rare bits of natural DNA might have evolved the same capability in the past. That could alter our thinking about how life began.

Read more. Source: Nature

Andromeda Galaxy
Andromeda yields cache of stellar black holes
(Mar 30, 2004)


Astronomers have discovered ten previously unknown likely black holes in the Andromeda Galaxy by means of a powerful new search technique they have devised. The Andromeda Galaxy is the nearest neighbouring spiral galaxy, 2.5 million light years away. Drs Robin Barnard, Ulrich Kolb and Carole Haswell of the Open University and Dr Julian Osborne of The University of Leicester used the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton orbiting X-ray observatory to find what are probably black holes lurking in double star systems known as low mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs).

Read more. Source: Spaceflight Now/RAS

contender for the X-prize
Private space race nears finish line
(Mar 29, 2004)


The reward is high, but so is the risk as some of the 27 teams pursuing a $10 million prize for the first privately funded manned spaceflight near a goal that once seemed outlandish. Organizers of the X Prize believe that teams could attempt the space trip as early as this summer. When the competition was announced just eight years ago, many were skeptical that any privately financed team could meet the requirements to collect the prize: Build a spacecraft capable of taking three passengers 62.5 miles (101 kilometers) above the planet, then make a second successful suborbital trip within two weeks. "It's going to happen in 2004. Someone will win it," said Gregg Maryniak, director of the St. Louis-based X Prize Foundation, a group created to spark development of reusable spacecraft that can take average citizens into space.

Source: CNN/AP

Mars from Mars Express
Methane on Mars: coverage continues
(Mar 29, 2004)


Methane has been found in the Martian atmosphere which scientists say could be a sign that life exists today on Mars. It was detected by telescopes on Earth and has recently been confirmed by instruments onboard the European Space Agency's orbiting Mars Express craft. Methane lives for a short time in the Martian atmosphere so it must be being constantly replenished. There are two possible sources: either active volcanoes, none of which have been found yet on Mars, or microbes.

Read more. Source: BBC

WIMP stream intercepting Earth
Earth on the 'WIMP highway'
(Mar 29, 2004)


Mysterious subatomic particles from another galaxy could be raining down on Earth, according to a collaboration of astronomers. If so, it could explain controversial results from a particle-detection experiment deep inside mountains to the east of Rome. The story concerns WIMPs – standing for weakly interacting massive particles – which astronomers think may make up the bulk of the Universe. For every kg of material made up from atoms like the ones we have in our bodies, or which make up the stars, there are up to 20kg of something completely different, whose principle quality is that it has never been actually observed directly by scientists. Which is why they call it dark matter. But they know it is there because its effect on the movements of galaxies can be weighed. If WIMPs exist, they would fill the spaces between the stars, and would interact with normal matter so weakly that they would pass right the way through the Earth.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mars Express
Possible signs of life detected on Mars
(Mar 28, 2004)


A strong signal of life on Mars has been detected by scientists at NASA and the European Space Agency. Each group has independently discovered tantalizing evidence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. Methane, a waste product of living organisms on Earth, could also be a by-product of alien microbes living under the surface of the Red Planet.The detection of methane has been the holy grail of scientists studying the Martian atmosphere, as its presence could provide unequivocal proof that there is life beyond Earth. Neither NASA nor the European Space Agency (ESA) has publicly announced the findings, but specialists who have seen the data believe the discovery is genuine - although they are unsure what it means in terms of confirming the presence of life. The discovery comes weeks after NASA and ESA announced new findings relating to the presence of huge bodies of water on Mars which could have supported life.

Read more. Source: The Independent

X43-A
NASA Mach 7 mission accomplished
(Mar 27, 2004)


NASA has successfully flown an experimental hypersonic plane over California for the first time. The unpiloted X-43A aircraft used a scramjet engine that could one day usher in a new generation of space shuttle propulsion systems. It flew for 10 seconds under its own power, before gliding into the ocean. Scramjets burn hydrogen but take their oxygen from the air, which is forced into the engine at very high speed. The technology could eventually pave the way for faster long-distance air travel and cheaper access to space.

Read more. Source: NASA

North polar ice cap of Mars
Martian spiral mystery at poles explained
(Mar 26, 2004)


The spiral troughs of Mars' polar ice caps have been called the most enigmatic landforms in the solar system. The deep canyons spiraling out from the Red Planet's North and South poles cover hundreds of miles. No other planet has such structures. A new model of trough formation suggests that heating and cooling alone are sufficient to form the unusual patterns. Previous explanations had focused on alternate melting and refreezing cycles but also required wind or shifting ice caps. "I applied specific parameters that were appropriate to Mars and out of that came spirals that were not just spirals, but spirals that had exactly the shape we see on Mars." Said Jon Pelletier, an assistant professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "They had the right spacing, they had the right curvature, they had the right relationship to one another."

Read more. Source: Space Daily

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