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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: May 2004
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Dimmest galaxy could give clue to dark matter May 31, 2004
Cassini makes tiny course change for Saturn May 31, 2004
Dino impact gave Earth the chill May 31, 2004
Rings ready for their close-ups May 30, 2004
Proposed nuclear-powered Jupiter mission defined May 29, 2004
Astronomers size up the Universe May 28, 2004
Telescope spies 'youngest' planet May 28, 2004
Double stars emerge as new heavyweight champions May 27, 2004
Venus clouds 'might harbour life' May 26, 2004
Time and money crunches doomed Beagle 2 May 25, 2004
Theory proposes new view of Sun and Earth's creation May 24, 2004
Four-winged birds may have been first fliers May 23, 2004
New asteroid has smallest solar orbit May 22, 2004
Cosmos 'a billion years older' May 21, 2004
Claim made for new form of life May 20, 2004
Universe given mid-life booster May 19, 2004
Utah microbes point to Mars May 19, 2004
Amateur rocket fired into space May 18, 2004
Scientists look to Saturn moon in search for life May 18, 2004
Rover starts crater science tasks May 16, 2004
Private spaceship sets altitude record May 14, 2004
Boost to asteroid wipe-out theory May 13, 2004
Hubble sees "planet" around star May 12, 2004
X-Prize 'will be won this year' May 11, 2004
Bugs go spelunking May 11, 2004
Milky Way spiral gets an extra arm May 9, 2004
Mars scientists find tempting new rocks May 7, 2004
How Mars got its rust May 6, 2004
Dark matter detector limbers up May 5, 2004
Opportunity peers into Endurance Crater May 4, 2004
NASA ponders yearlong space missions May 3, 2004
Scientists announce cosmic ray theory breakthrough May 2, 2004


Andromeda Galaxy
Dimmest galaxy could give clue to dark matter
(May 31, 2004)


As galaxies go, Andromeda IX is a mighty dim bulb. In fact, it is the dimmest galaxy ever detected, which means it could give clues to the mysterious dark matter that appears to be pushing regular matter around. And it's right in our cosmic back yard. Andromeda IX is a small satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way's closest galactic neighbor at a distance of about 2 million light-years from Earth. Astronomers making a map of one-quarter of the sky found it by concentrating on a diffuse clump of stars that turned out to be the tiny galaxy. The discovery was the subject of a presentation on Monday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Denver. Image: Andromeda Galaxy, of which Andromeda IX is a satellite.

Read more. Source: Reuters/CNN

Saturn
Cassini makes tiny course change for Saturn
(May 31, 2004)


The Cassini spacecraft successfully performed a critical six-minute trajectory correction maneuver May 27 to put it on course with its first encounter, Saturn's outermost moon Phoebe, set for June 11. The spacecraft is operating normally and is in excellent health. "The maneuver is very critical for getting us into Saturn orbit because it is the first checkout of the bipropellant pressurization system after nearly five years of dormancy," said Todd Barber, propulsion engineer for Cassini at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "It sets the stage for Saturn orbit insertion on June 30."

Read more. Source: Space Daily

ice in Antacrtica
Dino impact gave Earth the chill
(May 31, 2004)


Evidence has been found for a global winter following the asteroid impact that is thought to have killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Rocks in Tunisia reveal microscopic cold-water creatures invaded a warm sea just after the space rock struck Earth. The global winter was probably caused by a pollutant cloud of sulphate particles released when the asteroid vapourised rocks at Chicxulub, Mexico. The results are reported in the latest issue of the journal Geology. Italian, US and Dutch researchers studied rocks at El Kef in Tunisia which cover the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary, when dinosaurs - amongst other species - vanished from our planet.

Read more. Source: BBC


Saturn's rings
Rings ready for their close-up
(May 30, 2004)


A new close up image of Saturn and its rings taken by the Cassini space probe reveals just how close the European-US mission now is to its target. Saturn's famous rings can be seen casting threadlike shadows on the gas giant's northern hemisphere. The craft is now 19 million km from the planet, having travelled more than three billion km since its 1997 launch. Cassini will insert into Saturn's orbit on 30 June and release its piggybacked Huygens probe in January next year. Huygens will attempt to land on the oily seas of Saturn's major moon, Titan.

Read more. Source: BBC

JIMO
Proposed nuclear-powered Jupiter mission defined
(May 29, 2004)


NASA has issued its mission design requirements to three industry teams for a proposed mission to Jupiter and its three icy moons. The requirements are also the first product formulated by NASA's new Office of Exploration Systems in Washington. The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter is a spacecraft with an ambitious proposed mission that would orbit three planet-sized moons of Jupiter – Callisto, Ganymede and Europa – that may harbor vast oceans beneath their icy surfaces. The mission would be powered by a nuclear reactor and launched sometime in the next decade.

Read more. Source: Spaceflight Now / NASA

galaxy cluster
Astronomers size up the Universe
(May 28, 2004)


The Universe is at least 156 billion light-years wide, say astronomers. The estimate comes from data obtained by a space probe that is examining the so-called Cosmic Background Radiation – often called the echo of the Big Bang. The echo contains information of what the cosmos was like when it was young and how it might develop. The cosmos is 13.7bn years old but the stretching of space with its expansion after the Big Bang means that simple distance measurements do not apply.

Read more. Source: BBC

artist's impression of CoKu Tau 4
Telescope spies 'youngest' planet
(May 28, 2004)


NASA's Spitzer telescope has found evidence around a distant star for a planet that may be less than one million years old. The infrared space observatory studied five stars in the constellation Taurus, about 420 light-years away. All had dusty discs around them in which new planets are presumed to be forming out of accreting material. And for the star CoKu Tau 4, Spitzer saw a clearing in the disc which could have been swept clean by a new world. Nasa is excited by the latest findings from its $2bn space telescope launched last August. It cannot see objects the size of planets directly, but its infrared detectors can penetrate the dusty clouds around very young stars probing the regions in which planets are forming.

Read more. Source: BBC

artist's impression of WR20a
Double stars emerge as new heavyweight champions
(May 27, 2004)


About 20,000 light-years from Earth, two massive stars grapple with each other like sumo wrestlers locked in combat. Both giants, each weighing in at around 80 times the mass of our Sun, are the heaviest stars ever. They orbit each other every 3.7 days, nearly touching as they spin on the celestial stage. And they lead tempestuous lives worthy of any Hollywood couple, blasting each other with hot, violent stellar winds. "We could not resist exploring this system because it's so remarkable. It's a place of true extremes," said astronomer Alceste Bonanos. The binary star system Bonanos studied, known as WR 20a, was pegged as particularly interesting only weeks ago by a team of European researchers headed by Gregor Rauw. That team's spectroscopic observations showed that both stars were very massive. However, the only way to determine the masses precisely was to establish at what angle we were viewing the system, as well as the orbital period.

Read more. Source: Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Venus
Venus clouds 'might harbour life'
(May 26, 2004)


There could be life on the planet Venus, US scientists have concluded in a report in the journal Astrobiology. The existence of life on the planet's oven-hot surface is unimaginable. But microbes could survive and reproduce, experts say, floating in the thick, cloudy atmosphere, protected by a sunscreen of sulphur compounds. Scientists have even submitted a proposal for a NASA space mission to sample the clouds and attempt to return any presumed Venusians to Earth.

Read more. Source: BBC

Beagle 2
Time and money crunches doomed Beagle 2
(May 25, 2004)


Time and money pressures, along with management lapses, proved a fatal combination for the Beagle 2 spaceprobe that aimed to land on Mars, an official inquiry has concluded. The British-built lander has been completely silent since it was released from its mothership, Mars Express, on 19 December 2003. On Monday, the British National Space Centre and the European Space Agency released a summary of 19 lessons learned from the failed mission. The complete report, which will not be made public, follows a three-month investigation by – unnamed space experts from Europe, Russia, and NASA. Ironically, Beagle 2's ambitious scientific goals – to search directly for signs of Martian life – may have played a role in the mission's undoing. The summary states: "the very high potential scientific benefits of the project may have contributed to a collective institutional underestimate by us all of [how] to identify and mitigate the risks [resulting from] the very tight financial, mass and schedule constraints".

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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