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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: January 2005
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Cassiopeiae A
Swift catches first cosmic blasts
(Jan 9, 2005)


The Swift space telescope, launched in November, has seen its first gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) – the massive cosmic explosions it was built to study. The telescope detected its first burst on 17 December, only a few days after its instruments were switched on. On 19 December, the US space agency satellite caught three more. GRBs are the most powerful explosions in the Universe, releasing more than one hundred billion times the energy our Sun emits in a year. Swift orbits Earth in wait for a burst to come into its field of view.

Read more. Source: BBC

nano-propeller
Nano-propellers sent for a spin
(Jan 7, 2005)


Metallic rods about 500 times smaller than the width of a human hair have been turned into tiny "propellers" by a Canadian research team. The "nanorods" spin after becoming anchored to silicon wafers, Chemical Communications has reported. Their motion is driven by addition of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to the solution in which they are contained. A reaction at the free ends liberates gas bubbles to provide thrust, turning the rods at a near constant speed. Only when the supply of hydrogen peroxide fuel is exhausted do the rods stop spinning.

Read more. Source: BBC

halophiles
Microbes brave briny basins
(Jan 7, 2005)


A community of microorganisms has been discovered in one of the saltiest environments on Earth, ultra-saturated salt basins deep in the Mediterranean Sea. The salt solution there is so concentrated, microbiologists are mystified as to how the organisms are able to survive. Researchers sent a robotic submarine down to retrieve water samples from the basins. When they analysed the samples, they were excited to find DNA, proving that microorganisms do exist there. "So long as water is present in an environment, there appear to be few real limits to microbial life," comments Kevin Purdy, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, UK. (Image: Salt flats at Lake Magadi, Kenya, which are red due to the proliferation of halobacteria.)

Read more. Source: Nature

MS 0735.6+7421
Most powerful eruption in the universe discovered
(Jan 6, 2005)


Astronomers have found the most powerful eruption in the universe using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. A super massive black hole generated this eruption by growing at a remarkable rate. This discovery shows the enormous appetite of large black holes, and the profound impact they have on their surroundings. The huge eruption was seen in a Chandra image of the hot, X-ray emitting gas of a galaxy cluster called MS 0735.6+7421. Two vast cavities extend away from the super massive black hole in the cluster's central galaxy.

Read more. Source: Spaceflight Now / NASA

Iapetus
Probe passes 'moon of two halves'
(Jan 5, 2005)


The Cassini spacecraft has made a close pass of Saturn's moon Iapetus, a striking world of two halves. One side of Iapetus' surface is as bright as snow, while the other is coated in a material as dark as tar. At 0130GMT on 1 January, Cassini flew by the frigid moon at a distance of 123,400km on its closest approach. Some scientists think the dark material on Iapetus' surface came from space, while others believe it could have spewed out from the moon's interior.

Read more. Source: BBC

early view of Mars from Spirit
Rover hits one-year mark on Mars
(Jan 4, 2005)


Sitting on the hill of an alien world millions of miles from home, a hardy NASA robot celebrates an anniversary Monday - one year on the planet Mars. The Mars rover Spirit has come a long way since it hurtled down through the planet's atmosphere and came to a bouncy, airbag-protected stop at Gusev Crater on January 3, 2004. It has survived more than four times its initial 90-day mission, driven miles across the Martian landscape and weathered a red planet winter only to scale hills for its human handlers.

Read more. Source: CNN/space.com

Deep Impact
NASA can't wait to smash spacecraft
(Jan 2, 2005)


The big, grown-up boys on the NASA team can hardly wait. Next Fourth of July, they get to bust up a comet, Hollywood-style. "Blow things up? I'm there. Yeah, I don't have any issue with that," says Richard Grammier, manager of the project for Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The spacecraft is called Deep Impact just like the 1998 movie about a comet headed straight for Earth. NASA's goal is to collide a part of the spacecraft called the "impactor" with Comet Tempel 1. Scientists expect the collision to blast a crater into the comet to analyze the ice, dust and other primordial stuff hurled out of the pit.

Source: CNN/AP

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