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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: September 2004
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Betelgeuse
Pulsating red giants hide inside deceptive shells
(Sep 17, 2004)


An optical illusion has caused astronomers to overestimate the size of a class of giant stars by a factor of two, according to new observations. The revised size measurements are likely to clear up some mysteries about the strange objects, while deepening others. Pulsating red giants – called Mira variable stars – have long fascinated astronomers. They brighten and dim by a thousand times or more over periods of 100 to 1000 days. Mira stars are of particular interest as they began life about the same size as the Sun.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mars base
People on Mars possible in 20 to 30 years
(Sep 16, 2004)


People could land on Mars in the next 20 to 30 years provided scientists can find water on the red planet, the head of NASA's surface exploration mission said on Wednesday. Two partially solar-powered "robot geologists" – Mars Exploration Rovers – have been trundling across 3 miles of the planet and into craters since January, beaming back data about the makeup of what scientists believe is Earth's sister planet. Asked how long it could be before astronauts land on Mars, Arthur Thompson, mission manager for MER surface operations, told Reuters in an interview in Lima, "My best guess is 20 to 30 years, if that becomes our primary priority."

Read more. Source: Reuters/MSNBC

cupola
Space's largest window is built
(Sep 15, 2004)


The largest window built for use in space has been completed, promising to give astronauts a spectacular view from the International Space Station. The 80cm-wide window is one of seven fitted to an observation dome called Cupola, which will be attached to the ISS in January 2009. Cupola has six trapezoid-shaped side windows around the large, circular one.

Read more. Source: BBC

Genesis capsule
Crashed capsule may still reveal solar secrets
(Sep 14, 2004)


Much of the science from NASA's Genesis space capsule, which crashed in Utah on 8 September, will probably be salvaged, mission scientists say. Initial inspections of the ruptured capsule at an airbase near the crash site suggest many, if not all, of the capsule's hexagonal particle collectors are broken. But contamination from dirt and moisture may not be as widespread or damaging as originally thought, Genesis team members said Friday.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Stephan's Quintet
Astronomers capture galactic dance
(Sep 13, 2004)


Astronomers have released a stunning image taken by the Gemini Observatory of a cluster of interacting galaxies some 300 million light-years away. The galaxies are members of a famous group called Stephan's Quintet. Their shapes are distorted by gravitational interactions that scatter arches of gas and dust through space. Another result of this interaction is a prolific fireworks display of star formation, which is fuelled by clouds of hydrogen that have been forced into clumps to form stellar nurseries.

Read more. Source: BBC

Pioneer
Space probes feel cosmic tug of bizarre forces
(Sep 12, 2004)


Something strange is tugging at America's oldest spacecraft. As the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes head towards distant stars, scientists have discovered that the craft – launched more than 30 years ago – appear to be in the grip of a mysterious force that is holding them back as they sweep out of the solar system. Some researchers say unseen 'dark matter' may permeate the universe and that this is affecting the Pioneers' passage. Others say flaws in our understanding of the laws of gravity best explain the crafts' wayward behaviour.

Read more. Source: Guardian

possible extrasolar planet around 2m1207
Is this speck of light an exoplanet?
(Sep 10, 2004)


A research paper by an international team of astronomers provides sound arguments in favour, but the definitive answer is now awaiting further observations. On several occasions during the past years, astronomical images revealed faint objects, seen near much brighter stars. Some of these have been thought to be those of orbiting exoplanets, but after further study, none of them could stand up to the real test. Some turned out to be faint stellar companions, others were entirely unrelated background stars. This one may well be different.

Read more. Source: European Southern Observatory

asteroid impact
Asteroid impact craters could cradle life
(Sep 10, 2004)


An enormous asteroid might have killed the dinosaurs, but the craters left behind by such impacts may become burgeoning hotspots for life on Earth, and possibly even Mars, says a UK researcher. Charles Cockell at the British Antarctic Survey presented data on rocks – thriving with microbial life – found in the Haugton Crater in the Canadian Arctic to the British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival in Exeter, UK, on Thursday. The crater is the depression caused by an impact event 23 million years ago.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

scientists examine Genesis cannister
Scientists 'hopeful' for Genesis
(Sep 9, 2004)


Scientists have retrieved the damaged science canister from the Genesis mission and taken it to a clean room at the US Army base where it crashed. A team of specialists plucked pieces of dirt and mud that had lodged in the canister after it smashed at high speed into the Utah desert. The NASA Genesis team says it will begin examining the contents of the capsule later on Thursday. Scientists are hopeful they can recover some of its solar wind samples.

Read more. Source: BBC

new ring of Saturn
New ring discovered around Saturn
(Sep 9, 2004)


UK scientists using the Cassini probe have found a new ring and one, possibly two, new objects orbiting Saturn. The discoveries are in the planet's contorted F-ring region. The ring of new material seems to be associated with Saturn's moon Atlas. If confirmed, it will be the first UK detection of a moon since an outer moon of Jupiter was found in 1908. University of London scientists say that if it is one object then the known number of moons of Saturn rises to 34.

Read more. Source: BBC

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