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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: December 2005
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2005: The year in the solar system Dec 31, 2005
2005: The year in human spaceflight Dec 30, 2005
Moongazing reveals the chaotic world of Uranus Dec 28, 2005
Europe's space race with US begins Dec 27, 2005
NASA astronomers spot rare lunar meteor strike Dec 26, 2005
Baby stars decorate the Christmas Tree Cluster Dec 24, 2005
NASA to hunt smaller Earth-threatening asteroids Dec 23, 2005
Stardust targets lightning return Dec 23, 2005
Life's ingredients circle Sun-like star Dec 23, 2005
Salty Martian rocks may have formed without seas Dec 22, 2005
Pluto probe prepares for decade-long mission Dec 21, 2005
Beagle 2 probe 'spotted' on Mars Dec 20, 2005
Extinct mammoth DNA decoded Dec 19, 2005
Space-X announces launch date for Falcon 1 rocket Dec 17, 2005
Observatory spots galaxy's most energetic gamma rays Dec 16, 2005
Alien search merges with other home projects Dec 16, 2005
Space 'spiders' could build solar satellites Dec 15, 2005
Virgin Galactic announces its first 100 space tourists Dec 14, 2005
Strange new object found at edge of Solar System Dec 14, 2005
Hopes fade for troubled Japanese asteroid probe Dec 13, 2005
Geologists witness 'ocean birth' Dec 12, 2005
US group proposes Neptune mission Dec 11, 2005
Spiral arm of Milky Way looms closer than thought Dec 9, 2005
Chile desert's super-dry history Dec 8, 2005
Extreme bugs back idea of life on Mars Dec 8, 2005
It's called Apophis. It's 390m wide. And it could hit Earth in 31 years time Dec 7, 2005
Mystery mammal discovered in Borneo’s forests Dec 6, 2005
XCOR rocket plane soars into record book Dec 5, 2005
Black hole's colossal sphere of influence revealed Dec 3, 2005
Study treads on footprint claim Dec 2, 2005
Titan's atmosphere revealed as multilayered mystery Dec 1, 2005

2005: The year in the solar system
(Dec 31, 2005)

In 2005, scientists pieced together more clues in our understanding of the mysteries of the solar system. And the year yielded some exciting discoveries on Earth’s astronomical doorstep. The Cassini spacecraft has been a workhorse, gathering reams of data from Saturn and its moons and rings. The Huygens probe landed on the moon Titan in January and Cassini spotted what might be a volcano and methane downpours there too.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Liftoff of Shenzou VI
2005: The year in human spaceflight
(Dec 30, 2005)

For human spaceflight, 2005 could be labelled the year of the return. The US space shuttle and China’s Shenzhou spacecraft both made impressive returns to space while the Apollo capsule is poised for a comeback of sorts. After being grounded for two-and-a-half years following the destruction of shuttle Columbia, space shuttle Discovery returned to the skies in July on a busy mission to the International Space Station.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Uranus rings and inner moons
Moongazing reveals the chaotic world of Uranus
(Dec 28, 2005)

New orbital data on two moons of Uranus and two rings suggest the seventh planet may be a more chaotic place than thought. The two new moons, dubbed Cupid and Mab, were discovered in 2003 using the Hubble Space Telescope and archived images from the Voyager 2 spacecraft. Since then, the moons' discoverers, Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute and Jack Lissauer of NASA Ames Research Center, both in California, US, have refined the orbits of the moons and spotted two previously undetected dust rings.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Giove A
Europe's space race with US begins
(Dec 27, 2005)

At 3am tomorrow morning a Russian Soyuz rocket is set to streak into the skies over Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying a satellite that is purpose built to break one of the most ubiquitous monopolies on Earth. If all goes according to plan, the rocket will soar to a height of 14,000 miles before releasing Giove-A, a wardrobe-sized box of electronics, into orbit. Once in position it will gently unfold its twin solar panels and begin to loop around the planet twice each day. In doing so, Europe's most expensive space project, a rival to the US military-run global positioning system GPS, will have taken its first step.

Read more. Source: Guardian

artist's impression of meteoroid strike on the Moon
NASA astronomers spot rare lunar meteor strike
(Dec 26, 2005)

Astronomers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center have recorded a small but powerful meteoroid strike in the night on the moon’s surface. On Nov. 7, using a 10-inch-diameter telescope, astronomers recorded a tiny blip northwest of Mare Imbrium, the moon's "Sea of Showers." Such impacts are not uncommon, but it was only in 1999 that scientists first recorded a lunar strike as it happened. As NASA plans to return to the moon, the agency has a need to understand what happens after lunar impacts in order to protect lunar explorers.

Read more. Source: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Christmas Tree Cluster stars
Baby stars decorate the Christmas Tree Cluster
(Dec 24, 2005)

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered strings of baby stars adorning the Christmas Tree Cluster, a nearby stellar grouping embedded in dust and gas. The cluster was named for the bright stars that trace out the triangular shape of a Christmas tree. But dust and gas block much of the visible light from objects within the "tree". Now, Spitzer has used its Multiband Imaging Photometer (MIPS) and Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) to peer through the dust. It found a clutch of about two dozen baby stars. These have not yet heated their surroundings much, suggesting they are less than 100,000 years old.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

2004 AS1
NASA to hunt smaller Earth-threatening asteroids
(Dec 23, 2005)

A NASA-led search for Earth-threatening asteroids as small as 140 metres has been approved by the US Congress and is awaiting President George W Bush's signature. The bill provides no money, but survey telescopes are already in development. The asteroid search is part of a bill authorising NASA operations for 2007 and 2008. When signed, it will give NASA a year to devise a plan to catalogue 90% of potentially Earth-threatening asteroids within 15 years. Congressional action in 1998 pushed NASA to begin its current hunt for dangerous asteroids above 1 kilometre in size.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

artist's impression of Stardust retrieval
Stardust targets lightning return
(Dec 23, 2005)

The US space agency (NASA) is confident it can land samples from a comet back on Earth next month without mishap. The Stardust mission grabbed dusty debris from around Comet Wild 2 almost two years ago and will return its precious cargo on 15 January. A sample capsule will enter the Earth's atmosphere faster than any previous manmade object and then attempt to make a soft landing in the Utah desert. NASA scientists and engineers believe their parachute system will cope.

Read more. Source: BBC

artist's impression of the disk in the IRS 46 system
Life's ingredients circle Sun-like star
(Dec 23, 2005)

The first evidence that some of the basic organic building blocks of life can exist in an Earth-like orbit around a young Sun-like star has been provided by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer took infrared spectrograms of 100 very young stars in a nearby stellar nursery, a huge cloud of dust and gas 375 light years away in the constellation Ophiuchus. And one of those stars showed signs of the organic molecules, acetylene and hydrogen cyanide. These gases, when combined with water, can form several different amino acids.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Sedimentary rocks found by Opportunity
Salty Martian rocks may have formed without seas
(Dec 22, 2005)

Volcanism or meteorite impacts – and not standing water – could be responsible for the sulphate sediments detected on Mars by NASA's Opportunity rover, according to two separate studies. The research bolsters other studies suggesting Mars has been dry for most of its history and suggests life may have had a difficult time getting started on the planet. Opportunity landed in a region called Meridiani in January 2004. It discovered the region is composed of sedimentary, layered rock rich in sulphate salts and riddled with small spheres of haematite, nicknamed "blueberries".

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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