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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2005
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Sunspot cluster ejects huge radiation storm
(Jan 24, 2005)

The Sun spewed forth a massive amount of radiation this week, causing brilliant auroras and a radio blackout. Since 14 January alone, it has unleashed at least 17 medium and five large solar flares from a single sunspot cluster. Forecasters at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expect medium to high solar activity to continue until 23 January. "Having so many big flares from one particular region of the Sun is quite something," says Bernhard Fleck, project scientist for the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite. The X-rays produced by the flares did not rise to the level of the notorious solar storms of October and November 2003, but in terms of high-energy protons, this is the largest radiation storm since October 1989.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

brown dwarf
Young low-mass objects are twice as heavy as predicted
(Jan 22, 2005)

Although mass is the most important property of stars, it has proved very hard to measure for the lowest mass objects in the universe. Thanks to a powerful new camera, a very rare, low-mass companion has finally been photographed. The discovery suggests that, due to errors in the models, astronomers have overestimated the number of young "brown dwarfs" and "free floating" extrasolar planets. An international team of astronomers lead by University of Arizona Associate Professor Laird Close reports the discovery in today's (Jan 20.) issue of Nature.

Read more. Source: University of Arizona

Methane rivers and rain shape Titan's surface
(Jan 21, 2005)

Hills made of ice and rivers carved by liquid methane mark the surface of Saturn's giant moon, reveal data from the Huygens probe. Scientists are now beginning to get a coherent picture of Titan after the probe landed there on 14 January. The coldest world that humanity has ever explored bears a strange resemblance to Earth, boasting hills, river systems, and mud flats. The probe survived an unexpectedly bumpy ride through the atmosphere of Titan but enjoyed a soft landing, settling several centimetres into the surface, Huygens' scientists revealed at the European Space Agency's headquarters in Paris on Friday. (Image: dark channels on Titan's surface may have been formed by "springs" of liquid methane.)

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Huygens landing site
Image shows Huygens landing site
(Jan 20, 2005)

Scientists have identified the area of Saturn's moon Titan where the Huygens spacecraft touched down in new images released by the European Space Agency. On Friday, the probe parachuted towards the surface, sending scientific data – including stunning images – to Earth. Huygens had a rougher than expected ride through Titan's upper atmosphere, mission scientists have announced. Nevertheless, the spacecraft made a safe "splat-down" on to a material likened to "creme brulee".

Read more. Source: BBC

hominid jawbone
Amazing hominid haul in Ethiopia
(Jan 20, 2005)

Fossil hunters working in Ethiopia have unearthed the remains of at least nine primitive hominids that are between 4.5 million and 4.3 million years old. The fossils, which were uncovered at As Duma in the north of the country, are mostly teeth and jaw fragments, but also include parts of hands and feet. All finds belong to the same species – Ardipithecus ramidus – which was first described about a decade ago. Details of the discoveries appear in the latest issue of Nature magazine.

Read more. Source: BBC

Hubble Space Telescope
Human Hubble mission wins support
(Jan 19, 2005)

Support is growing for a human mission to be sent to repair the Hubble space telescope instead of robots. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) said it endorsed a National Research Council recommendation that Nasa pursue a manned mission to repair Hubble. It said the mission should be launched as early as possible after the space shuttle is ready to fly again. Scientists have been wrangling over how – or whether – to service the ageing telescope for some months now.

Read more. Source: BBC

infant stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud
Hubble finds infant stars in neighboring galaxy
(Jan 18, 2005)

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered for the first time a population of embryonic stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a companion galaxy of our Milky Way. Hubble's exquisite sharpness plucked out an underlying population of embryonic stars embedded in the nebula NGC 346 that are still forming from gravitationally collapsing gas clouds. They have not yet ignited their hydrogen fuel to sustain nuclear fusion. The smallest of these infant stars is only half the mass of our Sun.

Read more. Source: Space Telescope Science Institute

star birth triggered by jet
Black hole's particle jets trigger star births
(Jan 17, 2005)

A violent jet of particles shot out from a black hole is triggering star birth in a nearby galaxy, reveal the best observations of the system to date. The phenomenon, rare today, may have played a significant role in forming galaxies in the early universe. Super-massive black holes can create jets of charged particles when matter falling towards them gets ejected along strong magnetic fields. The particles slice through space at nearly the speed of light, emitting radio waves as they go. About 20 years ago, astronomers discovered a so-called radio jet that appeared to be capped with a galaxy. "People said this could be a chance collision between a jet and a galaxy," says Wil van Breugel, an astronomer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. But today, a handful of these systems have been discovered in nearby galaxies, and astronomers no longer believe the pairings are an accident.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Titan surface
Scientists thrilled by bird's eye view of Titan
(Jan 16, 2005)

Jubiliant European scientists yesterday unveiled the secrets of mysterious Titan, a world that has a surface like crème brûlée. British-built instruments carried on Europe's Huygens probe, which landed on Saturn's giant moon on Friday, have revealed an alien surface with a thin crust and soft, sticky material underneath. 'The nearest Earth equivalent that we can think of is crème brûlée, though of a rather gritty nature – more like sandy crème brûlée,' said Andrew Ball, a member of the Open University team that built Huygens's Surface Science Package (SSP), which has sent back analyses of the landing site.

Read more. Source: Guardian

evolving galaxies
Sky surveys reveal cosmic ripples
(Jan 16, 2005)

The unimaginably big of today has its explanation in the fantastically small of 13 billion years ago. Astronomers have shown how the present pattern of galaxies in the cosmos grew from tiny fluctuations in the density of matter just after the Big Bang. The work draws on results from two scientific teams conducting sky surveys based in Australia and the US. "It's an amazing new insight into how the Universe works," said Prof Carlos Frenk, of the University of Durham, UK.

Read more. Source: BBC

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