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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: November 2004
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galaxy cluster
Cosmic doomsday delayed
(Nov 8, 2004)

You can breathe a sigh of relief: the Universe will last for at least the next 24 billion years, according to astrophysicists who have modelled the mysterious force of dark energy to work out the fate of the cosmos. Andrei Linde, a theoretical astrophysicist from Stanford University, California, leads a team who previously predicted that the Universe might end as soon as 11 billion years from now1. But the team's latest research into dark energy, published online at the preprint server arXiv2, gives us a stay of execution.

Read more. Source: Nature

Mars Exploration Rover
Rover gets mystery power boost
(Nov 6, 2004)

Scientists have been baffled by a mysterious boost in power to one of its two robotic rovers which are exploring the surface of the Red Planet. Overnight, Opportunity's solar panels produced between 2% and 5% additional power, perhaps due to Martian dust that had settled on them being removed. This may be increasing the efficiency by which the panels convert sunlight to electricity in order to power the rover One theory is that a storm, or dust-devil, blew dust off the panels. But for now, mission scientists are saying only that Opportunity underwent two or three significant "cleaning events."

Read more. Source: BBC

Hunt for shadowy Kuiper belt objects all set
(Nov 5, 2004)

An ambitious hunt for small, faint objects in the outer solar system is set to begin in the next few weeks. The project could shed light on the shadowy region and reveal the forces that shaped the early solar system. The project will target the Kuiper Belt, a ring of objects beyond Neptune left over from the formation of the planets about 4.5 billion years ago. Most of the 1000 Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) discovered since 1992 orbit the Sun at a distance 30 to 50 times further than the Earth. Based on their brightness, they appear to range from 100 to 1000 kilometres in width. Astronomers expect to see many more KBOs of smaller size - which probably formed through collisions - but these are difficult to detect because they reflect so little light.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Supernova G292
Supernova debris found on Earth
(Nov 4, 2004)

Cosmic fallout from an exploding star dusted the Earth about 2.8 million years ago, and may have triggered a change in climate that affected the course of human evolution. The evidence comes from an unusual form of iron that was blasted through space by a supernova before eventually settling into the rocky crust beneath the Pacific Ocean.

Read more. Source: Nature

Prometheus caught stealing from Saturn's rings
(Nov 3, 2004)

In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the Gods. Now, Saturnís tiny moon Prometheus is showing similar tendencies, repeatedly stealing material from planetís rings, according to new images taken by the Cassini probe. The image was taken on 29 October 2004 from a distance of 791,000 km. It shows a sliver of light about 300 km inside Saturn's F ring, which lies beyond its main ring system and contains at least three bright strands of ice and dust. That sliver is the partially illuminated, potato-shaped moon Prometheus, which is about 150 km in length. Prometheus and another moon - Pandora, which orbits just outside the ring - bookend the ring and have been called "shepherd" moons because they appear to keep the ring in line.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

spider's web
Spider webs untangle evolution
(Nov 2, 2004)

The biologist Stephen Jay Gould famously proposed that if we could "rewind the tape" of evolution and play it again, chance would give rise to a world that was completely different from the one we live in now. But the concept that chance reigns supreme may ring less true when it comes to complex behaviours. A study of the similarities between the webs of different spider species in Hawaii provides fresh evidence that behavioural tendencies can actually evolve rather predictably, even in widely separated places.

Read more. Source: Nature

China aims for five days in orbit
(Nov 2, 2004)

China's second manned space flight will carry two astronauts into space and will orbit the Earth for five days. The country's space authorities made the announcement about the mission, which is scheduled for next year, at an air show in China's Guangzhou Province. Mission scientists said they have been working to optimise the performance, safety and reliability of the spacecraft, named Shenzhou VI. China's first manned mission, Shenzhou V, launched into space in October 2003.

Read more. Source: BBC

In the stars: Titan's critical secret
(Nov 1, 2004)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft just flew closer to Saturn's giant moon Titan than any other device built by humans. The mission, in one of the far corners of the solar system, is attempting to answer a very large, critical question – does life exist anywhere else in the universe? In some ways, the discovery of life on Titan would be an even bigger story than finding life on Mars. Hidden behind a thick veil of haze, mysterious Titan is the solar system's only known moon with an atmosphere. Not only that, its mostly nitrogen atmosphere also contains methane and possibly ammonia, two of the building blocks of organic molecules.

Read more. Source: Space Daily / UPI

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