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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2005
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Sun
Why the Sun seems to be 'dimming'
(Jan 16, 2005)


We are all seeing rather less of the Sun, according to scientists who have been looking at five decades of sunlight measurements. They have reached the disturbing conclusion that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth's surface has been gradually falling. Paradoxically, the decline in sunlight may mean that global warming is a far greater threat to society than previously thought. The effect was first spotted by Gerry Stanhill, an English scientist working in Israel.

Read more. Source: BBC

Titan
From 750m miles away, a glimpse of a frozen, ancient Earth
(Jan 15, 2005)


Scientists last night unveiled an aerial study of an alien world, across a distance of more than 750 million miles. From an altitude of 10 miles, a little European robot equipped with camera and microphone took the first picture of the surface of Saturn's moon Titan. Below the thick methane haze, the descending intruder saw evidence of a shoreline – and perhaps a sea or an ocean – and the telltale pattern of drainage. Close-up pictures from the surface of Titan revealed an enigmatic landscape of eroded boulders. It was the climax of more than 20 years of planning, and a 2bn-mile voyage lasting seven years. The pictures took 67 minutes to return.

Read more. Source: Guardian

Huygens
Space probe lands on Titan
(Jan 14, 2005)


The Huygens space probe has touched down on the surface of one of Saturn's moons, Titan, and is sending back signals, say space agency scientists. The spacecraft probe had been transmitting data for over two hours as it plunged towards the moon's surface. This data has not arrived on Earth yet, but the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia, US, detected its carrier signal – a sign the probe was working. It is the furthest from Earth a spacecraft has ever been landed.

Read more. Source: BBC

object on Mars
Opportunity spots curious object On Mars
(Jan 14, 2005)


NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover has come across an interesting object – perhaps a meteorite sitting out in the open at Meridiani Planum. Initial data taken by the robot’s Mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) is suggestive that the odd-looking “rock” is made of metal. The curious-looking object stands out in the parking-lot like landscape of Meridiani Planum. “We're curious about it too. We have Mini-TES data on it now, and they suggest that it may actually be made of metal,” said Steve Squyres, lead scientist on the Mars Exploration Rover mission from Cornell University. “So we are beginning to suspect that it may be a meteorite. I stress that this is very preliminary!”, Squyres told SPACE.com.

Read more. Source: space.com

Huygens
Huygens set for Titan encounter
(Jan 13, 2005)


The Huygens spacecraft is ready to make history as it heads for its rendezvous with Saturn's smog-shrouded moon Titan. On 14 January, Huygens will dive through Titan's atmosphere taking images and readings on the way. Its scientific investigation of this mysterious world could yield clues to how life first arose on Earth. The robotic lab will hit Titan's atmosphere at 0907 GMT. If all goes well, it will be the furthest from Earth a spacecraft has been landed.

Read more. Source: BBC

largest stars
Three largest stars identified
(Jan 12, 2005)


Astronomers have identified the three biggest stars known to science. If they were located in the same place as our own Sun – at the centre of the Solar System – the stars would stretch out further than the orbit of Jupiter. The red "supergiant" stars are more than 1.5 billion km across, pushing the previous record holder, Herschel's "Garnet Star", into fourth place. The new research was presented on Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego, US.

Read more. Source: BBC

Deep Impact
Comet probe prepares for lift-off
(Jan 11, 2005)


NASA's Deep Impact mission, which will crash a projectile into Comet Tempel 1, is ready to launch from Cape Canaveral at 1847 GMT on Wednesday 12 January. It will arrive at Tempel 1 six months later and eject a 372kg projectile into its path to blast a deep hole in its nucleus and reveal what lies beneath. The projectile will collide with the comet on 4 July – 24 hours after its release – travelling at 37,000km/h. It could punch a crater in the comet big enough to swallow Rome's Colloseum.

Read more. Source: BBC

Iapetus
Iapetus moon bulges at the sides
(Jan 10, 2005)


The Cassini spacecraft's flyby of Saturn's moon Iapetus has revealed a bizarre geological feature in its images: a bulging ridge at its equator. Mission scientists have started to release detailed images of the moon's surface, which is sharply divided into a bright half and a dark half. The ridge is around 13km (8 miles) high in some places – taller than Mount Everest, the tallest peak on Earth. Data from the pass may help solve how the moon looks the way it does.

Read more. Source: BBC

gravitational lensing in a galaxy cluster
New study shows that dark matter clumps in galaxies
(Jan 10, 2005)


Hubble Space Telescope data, analyzed by a Yale astronomer using gravitational lensing techniques, has generated a spatial map demonstrating the clumped substructure of dark matter inside clusters of galaxies. Clusters of galaxies are typically made up of hundreds of galaxies bound together by gravity. About 90 percent of their mass is dark matter. The rest is ordinary atoms in the form of hot gas and stars. Although little is known about it, cold dark matter is thought to have structure at all magnitudes. Theoretical models of the clumping properties were derived from detailed, high resolution simulations of the growth of structure in the Universe. Although previous evidence supported the “concordance model” of a Universe mostly composed of cold, dark matter, the predicted substructure had never been detected.

Read more. Source: Yale University

rat
Rats show off language skills
(Jan 10, 2005)


Rats can tell the difference between Dutch and Japanese, suggests a new study. But it is not because some spy agency has bioengineered them to eavesdrop on conversations in Tokyo or Amsterdam. They are simply recognising the difference in rhythmic properties of the languages, says Juan Toro, a neuroscientist at the University of Barcelona in Spain, whose study is part of an effort to trace the origins of the skills that humans use to analyse speech. Human infants are extremely sensitive to the rhythmic regularities of language, which researchers think may help infants to break sound into patterns they can decipher as words. Earlier experiments showed that both tamarin monkeys and human infants can discriminate between Dutch and Japanese – two languages with rhythmic content that differs greatly.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

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