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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: April 2005
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black hole
Early Universe was packed with mini black holes
(Apr 18, 2005)


A research group at Cambridge think that the universe might once have been packed full of tiny black holes. Dr Martin Haehnelt, a researcher in the group led by Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, will present new evidence to support this controversial idea at the Institute of Physics conference Physics 2005 in Warwick. Most cosmologists believe that supermassive black holes grew up in big galaxies, accumulating mass as time went on. But Haehnelt says there is increasing evidence for a different view – that small black holes grew independently and merged to produce the giants which exist today.

Read more. Source: Institute of Physics

Sednad
Distant planetoid Sedna gives up more secrets
(Apr 16, 2005)


The distant planetoid Sedna appears to be covered in a tar-like sludge that gives it a distinctly red hue, a new study reveals. The findings suggests the dark crust was baked-on by the Sun and has been untouched by other objects for millions of years. Sedna appears to be nearly the size of Pluto and was discovered in November 2003. It is the most distant object ever seen within the solar system and travels on an elongated path that stretches from 74 to 900 times the distance between the Sun and the Earth. Astronomers have struggled to explain such an extreme orbit, but many believe a star passing by the Sun about 4 billion years ago yanked the planetoid off its original, circular course.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

dinosaur eggs
Eggs found inside dinosaur fossil
(Apr 15, 2005)


A dinosaur that died just before it was about to lay two eggs has been found by an international team of scientists. The creature, which lived 65-98 million years ago, was discovered in China's Jiangxi Province. The fossilised remains comprise little more than a pelvis with the shelled eggs still viewable in the body cavity. Tamaki Sato and colleagues tell Science magazine the dinosaur's reproductive system shares similarities with both primitive reptiles and modern birds.

Read more. Source: BBC

relic stars
Relic star poses cosmic puzzles
(Apr 14, 2005)


Astronomers have identified what could be one of the earliest stars formed in the Universe, Nature magazine reports. Scientists think the cosmic relic may consist largely of elements created in the hot gas that existed just 15 minutes after the Big Bang. The star has a very low iron content – an elemental signature that suggests it is made of fresh material that was never processed by an earlier star. But other such signatures are unusual for a very primitive stellar object. The new star HE1327-2326 and another star called HE01075240 have the lowest abundances of heavy elements known.

Read more. Source: BBC

Moon base
Sunny spot picked out for future lunar base
(Apr 14, 2005)


Parts of the Moon's north pole may be constantly bathed in sunlight, making it the ideal place to build a future human colony, say scientists. US President George W Bush announced a plan in 2004 to build a permanent lunar base from which people can explore the moon, and then go on to Mars. But the Moon's environment is harsh. Without an appreciable atmosphere to distribute heat, most lunar regions swing from -180C to 100C as the Moon rotates in and out of sunlight every 29.5 days. But the Moon's poles are thought to be less extreme. Unlike Earth, the Moon spins nearly vertically with respect to the plane of its orbit around the Sun and so the poles never experience a sunset – the Sun just skims around the horizon as the Moon rotates. This constant light should provide stable temperatures of about -50C and a steady source of energy – crucial requirements for any future lunar base.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

astroengineering
Look out for giant triangles in space
(Apr 13, 2005)


The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) could be taking the wrong approach. Instead of listening for alien radio broadcasts, a better strategy may be to look for giant structures placed in orbit around nearby stars by alien civilisations. "Artificial structures may be the best way for an advanced extraterrestrial civilisation to signal its presence to an emerging technology like ours," says Luc Arnold of the Observatory of Haute-Provence in France. And he believes that the generation of space-based telescopes now being designed will be able to spot them.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

artist's impression of a gamma-ray burster
Ray burst is extinction suspect
(Apr 12, 2005)


A huge cosmic explosion could have caused a mass extinction on Earth 450 million years ago, according to an analysis by scientists in the US. A gamma ray burst could have caused the Ordovician extinction, killing 60% of marine invertebrates at a time when life was largely confined to the sea. These cosmic blasts are the most powerful explosions in the Universe. The scientists think a 10-second burst near Earth could deplete up to half of the planet's ozone layer.

Read more. Source: BBC

Arches Cluster
Cosmic particle accelerator seen
(Apr 12, 2005)


Astronomers have discovered a loop-like structure some 20 light-years across close to the centre of the Milky Way. And the team that found it believes the vast, bizarre structure could be some form of cosmic particle accelerator. The loop may produce sub-atomic particles with a thousand times more energy than those in man-made accelerators.

Read more. Source: BBC

artist's impression of a quasar
Why Einstein may have got it wrong
(Apr 11, 2005)


A century after Albert Einstein published his most famous ideas, physicists will today commemorate the occasion by trying to demolish one of them. Astronomers will tell experts gathering at Warwick University to celebrate the anniversary of the great man's "miracle year" that the speed of light – Einstein's unchanging yardstick that underpins his special theory of relativity – might be slowing down. Michael Murphy, of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University, said: "We are claiming something extraordinary here. The findings suggest there is a more fundamental theory of the way that light and matter interact; and that special relativity, at its foundation, is actually wrong."

Read more. Source: Guardian

surface of Titan
Titan probe's pebble 'bash-down'
(Apr 11, 2005)


An ice pebble was almost certainly the first thing the Huygens probe struck as it landed on Titan. Open University scientists have been running experiments to try to simulate the data returned by a spike that protruded from the lander's underside. This penetrometer was the first part of Huygens to touch the Saturnian moon and drove about 10cm into the surface. More than 100 tests by the team have now provided the clearest indication of what that material might be.

Read more. Source: BBC

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