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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2005
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the crew of the first starship Enterprise
Star Trek fans fight to save show
(Feb 18, 2005)


Star Trek fans have taken out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times in an attempt to persuade TV executives not to scrap Star Trek: Enterprise. Made by the UPN TV network, the latest spin-off from the hit sci-fi show is due to end in May after four series. But fans around the world have pitched in to pay for the advert, which had the headline "Save Star Trek". They are also asking the Sci-Fi Channel to pick it up from UPN and will stage a rally in Los Angeles on 25 February.

Read more. Source: BBC

large crater on Titan
Radar details large Titan crater
(Feb 18, 2005)


The Cassini spacecraft's latest flyby of Titan has produced a radar image of a 440 km-wide (273 miles) crater. Such features are rare on the Saturnian satellite as its surface, unlike many in the Solar System, is being reshaped. Tuesday was Cassini's fourth flyby of the moon, but the first on which the probe's radar and imaging camera have overlapped in their coverage. This overlap should provide more information about surface features than either technique alone, scientists say.

Read more. Source: BBC

black hole
Black holes bend light the 'wrong' way
(Feb 17, 2005)


Astronomers could be misinterpreting their observations of distant stars, suggest mathematicians. Starlight may be bent in odd directions when it passes close to a rotating black hole, the researchers say, unexpectedly shifting its source's apparent position in the sky. The cause is a recently discovered phenomenon called negative refraction, which physicists are still struggling to understand.

Read more. Source: Nature

Herto skull
Age of ancient humans reassessed
(Feb 17, 2005)


Two skulls originally found in 1967 have been shown to be about 195,000 years old, making them the oldest modern human remains known to science. The age estimate comes from a re-dating of Ethiopian rock layers close to those that yielded the remarkable fossils. The skulls, known as Omo I and II, push back the known presence of Homo sapiens in Africa by 40,000 years. The latest dating work is reported in the science journal Nature.

Read more. Source: BBC

MXER
Space tether to send satellites soaring
(Feb 16, 2005)


A 100-kilometre-long "fishing line" that spins freely in space may one day catch and fling satellites to higher orbits. The tether, set to begin a series of ground tests, could boost its targets' altitude using just solar power and the Earth's magnetic field. Traditional rockets use fuel to loft their payloads into the desired orbits. "The farther you want to go, the more fuel you need to put onboard," says Stephen Canfield, a mechanical engineer at Tennessee Technical University in Cookeville, US. But rockets could use less fuel if they instead launched satellites into low-Earth orbit before having the tether take over, boosting the satellites into higher, geosynchronous orbits - or even sending them on escape trajectories. (NASA image: endmass of an MXER tether station)

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Albert Einstein
Key to intelligence questioned
(Feb 15, 2005)


Thought might not be dependent on language, according to new research published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. A UK team has shown that patients who have lost the ability to understand grammar can still complete hard sums. This suggests mathematical reasoning can exist without language. The study undermines the assumption that language is the key quality that makes our thought processes more advanced than those of other animals.

Read more. Source: BBC

extrasolar planet
Smallest extra-solar planet found
(Feb 14, 2005)


US astronomers say they have found the smallest planet orbiting outside our Solar System to date. The new world, which is about one fifth the size of Pluto, is the fourth planet to be discovered orbiting around a pulsar called PSR B1257+12. A pulsar is a spinning neutron star producing powerful beams of radiation. The new planet is orbiting inside a large cloud of hot, charged gas that surrounds the pulsar and is some 1,500 light-years away from Earth.

Read more. Source: BBC

Mimas
Saturn's moon is Death Star's twin
(Feb 14, 2005)


Saturn's diminutive moon, Mimas, poses as the Death Star – the planet-destroying space station from the movie Star Wars – in an image recently captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. A giant crater 138 kilometres across dominates the landscape of Mimas and represents almost one-third of the moon's diameter. Scientists first noticed Mimas's resemblance to the Death Star when the twin Voyager spacecraft flew past Saturn in 1980 and 1981. The second film in the movie series – The Empire Strikes Back – had just hit movie theatres. Now, Cassini has taken an even better image than those from the Voyager probes with its narrow-angle camera. It snapped the photo on 16 January 2005 from 213,000 km away at a resolution of 1.3 km per pixel.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Ariane 5-ECA launch
Europe's super-rocket rides high
(Feb 14, 2005)


Europe has launched its most powerful rocket to date – the Ariane 5-ECA. The 50m-high (160ft) vehicle blasted off from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana at 2103 GMT, putting eight tonnes of satellite payload into orbit. It was the ECA's first flight following its disastrous maiden outing in 2002, when the rocket was destroyed as it veered out of control over the ocean. Launch company Arianespace believes the vehicle will be crucial in helping it maintain a strong market position.

Read more. Source: BBC

Ariane 5-ECA
Expectations ride on super-rocket
(Feb 12, 2005)


The satellite industry will hold its breath on Saturday as Europe tries for the second time to fly its super-rocket – the "10-tonne" Ariane 5-ECA. The 50m-high (160ft) vehicle exploded four minutes into its first mission in 2002, destroying a telecoms payload valued at 600 million euros (410m). Rocket operator Arianespace believes it has fixed the cause of the failure and is betting its future on the ECA. The vehicle is set to become Europe's primary launcher in the decade ahead.

Read more. Source: BBC

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